Though Overactive Bladder (OAB) affects millions of people in the U.S., many of these individuals are too embarrassed or afraid to talk about their symptoms. This is understandable, but unfortunately, the silence surrounding this incredibly common condition means that many inaccurate ideas about OAB are floating around – and bad information can prevent people from seeking treatment or speaking up.
If you’re having trouble separating OAB fact from fiction, you’re not alone. We encourage everyone with OAB symptoms to do their research, learn more about OAB and start talking – and we’re here to help you get started! Below are six common misconceptions about OAB, along with the facts that set them straight.
Myth #1: OAB is a natural part of aging
While bladder issues do tend to affect older women and men more than their younger counterparts, this doesn’t mean that OAB is an automatic side-effect of aging. Of the up to 40 percent of women in the U.S. who live with OAB, many are in their twenties or thirties. Regardless of age, OAB is a condition that can be diagnosed and treated. Which brings us to…
Myth #2: OAB isn’t treatable
In fact, nothing could be further from the truth – while there’s no one “quick fix” for OAB, its symptoms can be managed with the help of lifestyle adjustments or medication. Lifestyle changes can include taking special note of foods to avoid and exercises to try, while medication, like anti-muscarinic drugs, can relax the bladder muscles to prevent frequent urinary urges.
Myth #3: Cutting back on liquids will calm your bladder down
What goes in must come out, right? This idea leads many women to limit their liquid intake in order to reduce trips to the bathroom. This approach can actually lead to dehydration, which can irritate your bladder even further. Drink smart by sticking to water and non-acidic drinks like herbal mint or chamomile tea and avoiding foods you know irritate your bladder. (Everyone is different, but common irritants include coffee, soda and alcohol.) To minimize the pressure on your bladder, try drinking in small amounts throughout the day, and have your last glass at least three hours before bedtime.
Myth #4: A sanitary napkin is good protection against bladder leaks
The pads used for your period weren’t designed to absorb urine – and they weren’t designed for leakage odor control either. Using the wrong kind of protection can leave too much excess moisture, an easy way to irritate the surrounding skin and leave you with a rash. Your best bet is to use pads specifically designed for urine leakage, available at any drugstore.
Myth #5: OAB only affects women
Young, old, male, female – OAB doesn’t discriminate. Up to 30 percent of men in the U.S. have the condition, especially those who have experienced prostate problems in the past.
Myth #6: My doctor doesn’t want to hear about this!
Many people are embarrassed or afraid to talk to their doctors about this extremely common condition. But not talking to your health care provider prevents you from getting the treatment you need. Your doctor’s heard it all before, and being candid about symptoms is the single best thing you can do for your OAB. Your doctor will certainly understand if you’re embarrassed and he or she should help you through the process of managing your symptoms.
With all the myths and rumors out there, it can be hard to separate what’s real from what’s not, but speaking up about OAB is the quickest route to symptom relief. For more information about OAB, check out this great resource from the American Urological Association (AUA) Foundation: www.ItsTimeToTalkAboutOAB.org. You can also join the AUA Foundation and other vibrant women in generating awareness about OAB by sharing your story via the Voices of OAB.