Coping with Overactive Bladder

By Rosalie E. Leposky

Although overactive bladder gets far less publicity than cancer or heart disease, it's an ailment with a large constituency that will only grow as the Baby Boom generation ages.

Today over 17 million Americans experience some form of bladder discomfort, as manufacturers spend huge amounts of money on television commercials to promote adult underpants and liners.

Some common symptoms of overactive bladder are:

The need to urinate more than eight times in 24 hours.

The need to urinate two or more times at night.

A sudden urge to urinate.

Wetting accidents due to delay in responding to such urges.

Involuntary urine leakage while coughing, lifting, running, or sneezing

Bladder problems have the potential to be serious at any age, and you should consult a physician if your urination pattern changes.

Deleterious Results

Some deleterious results of an overactive bladder are:

Frequent absences from appointed tasks at work.

Missing parts of meetings, movies, or television shows.

Preoccupation with the need to urinate, causing changes in behavior patterns.

Fear of asking for help.

Three simple, common-sense lifestyle changes, less well promoted than the commercially available products, may help.

Exercise the Love Muscles

Just as natural-childbirth students learn to stifle their laughing and seriously concentrate on pulling taut their pubococcygeus (PC) muscles, adults of all ages should restrain their amusement and regularly practice this exercise, called Kegeling.

In 1984, exercise maven Jane Fonda in Women Coming of Age nicknamed the PC muscles "the love muscles." They are that and, more. They require no high-tech exercise facilities. Just pull tight from inside your body the muscles around your genitals. Kegeling is one exercise you can do anywhere, simply by thinking about doing it.

"For over 20 years I have taught Kegel exercises in my natural-childbirth classes, and now I teach Kegel exercises as a menopause counselor," says Carol M. Gittess, R.N., A.C.C.E., a nurse-educator in the Menopause Resource Center at Baptist Hospital in Miami, Florida.

Dr. Roberto Chao, M.D., a urologist with the Cleveland Clinics Florida in Fort Lauderdale, recommends that people of all ages practice their Kegel exercise daily at scheduled times to strengthen the muscles and help to avoid overactive bladder and incontinence due to stress.

Experiment with Diet

"People need to experiment with their diet and find out what irritates their bladder," says William E. Potts, M.D., of the Southeastern Urological Group in Tallahassee, Florida.

"Some people are particularly affected by the caffeine found in cola drinks, coffee, tea, and chocolate; bacidic foods such as citrus and tomato; and by highly spiced foods."

Nighttime urination is affected by how how much liquid you drink late in the day, says Dr. Chao. "Try to reduce drinking liquids after the evening meal," he advises, "or if you go to bed early, cut off liquids after 5 P.M."

Rosalie E. Leposky is managing partner of Ampersand Communications, a news-features syndicate based in Miami, Florida.

For More Information

The Bladder Health Council, an advisory board of the American Foundation of Urological Disease -

(c) Ampersand Communications

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