It’s never too early to talk with a healthcare practitioner about overactive bladder (OAB)_ symptoms. Even if you lose only small amounts of urine or have very few accidents, if your symptoms bother you, then it’s time to talk about them. Unfortunately, OAB is not the easiest thing to discuss, especially with a doctor you may not see often. However, being prepared for the discussion may make it easier. ._
Know the facts
Before talking with your doctor, learn as much as you can about your symptoms to avoid any guesswork. If you suffer from urges but can’t always make it to the bathroom in time, that’s a sign of urge incontinence. Do you find that you lose small amounts of urine involuntarily? That signals stress incontinence. OAB is a condition that results from urge incontinence. Understanding these terms can be a big help in your treatment.
Incontinence symptoms affect millions of people, and twice as many women than men will develop incontinence. OAB is commonly believed to be a result of old age, but it also can be the result of a surgery, nerve damage or pregnancy. Incontinence is not something that you have to live with; you’re not alone, and there are many treatment options available.
Who to talk to
The easiest way to begin talking about OAB symptoms is to start with the health practitioner with whom you are most comfortable. You don’t just have to speak with your general doctor, nurse or physician’s assistant. You can talk with your OB-GYN, urologist or even a pharmacist. If you are uncomfortable with doctors, try talking about it with a friend, spouse or significant other first. You can even practice talking by yourself, so you go to the appointment knowing exactly what you want to say.
Make a special consultation appointment dedicated to discussing OAB symptoms and treatment options. This way you have plenty of time to talk through everything, and have adequate time to discuss management techniques. If you plan on bringing up OAB symptoms at your next general appointment, be sure to mention it early in the checkup. That way, the doctor can get all of the routine checks out of the way, and you won’t be pressed for time to talk about what you’re really concerned about.
If you are hesitant or feel embarrassed talking about symptoms, create a detailed log that describes all your symptoms and how they affect you. Bringing this log along and having your doctor read through it can help take some of the stress off of having to openly talk about it.
When you do talk, be honest
It’s important that, as you talk with a health practitioner, you don’t downplay any of your symptoms. This is a sensitive topic, and it may make you feel self-conscious, but being upfront and precise about symptoms will ensure that you get the best treatment, which will reduce the amount of times you have to go back to a doctor.
Make sure to express exactly how much fluid you consume, how often you have to use the bathroom or how often feel like you do. Do accidents occur when you exercise or during sex? Are you feeling depressed by your symptoms? Be sure to note all of these things. It also helps to tell doctors about any management techniques you’ve already tried and what treatments, such as exercises or surgery, that you may or may not be willing to try. Healthcare practitioners aren’t there to judge you, they are there to help.
When discussing your OAB symptoms, be patient with yourself and the health practitioner. He or she may ask questions to get a better understanding of how you feel, how symptoms affect you and what kind of results you expect with treatment. Be open to these questions, as this is all part of the process of managing OAB.
Don’t give up
If you feel as though the first conversation didn’t go as you’d planned, or you weren’t as successful in expressing your concerns, try again. Schedule another time to talk with your doctor, or find a different type of health practitioner to speak with. If managing your OAB symptoms is important to you, then it should be just as important to your doctor. Being persistent can help build confidence and will help make sure you get your point across.
If you have already begun treatment, or have started an OAB management plan, maintain open communication with your healthcare practitioner. Checking in with doctors frequently will ensure you stay on track with the best treatment to successfully manage your symptoms.
Kristina Brooks is a gluten-free digital editor at HealthCentral, with a background in animal biology, ecology, and health science. While studying broadcast journalism, she discovered the great need for health reporters that could translate research to the public. In her work, she hopes to use research to help consumers make smart decisions about their healthcare, and empower patients to stay confident and in charge of their chronic conditions. Kristina works on the HealthySelf newsletter, as well as HealthCentral’s MythWeek.