Though some may not consider Overactive Bladder (OAB) a serious condition, it can cause a significant impact on a vibrant woman’s quality of life. We know that you may feel embarrassed to discuss your symptoms or seek treatment, which is why it’s important to understand how OAB can affect your health and everyday lifestyle. The tips that follow from Dr. Kathleen Kobashi, member of the American Urological Association (AUA) Foundation’s OAB Expert Panel, will help prepare you to speak with your doctor about OAB symptoms and ensure you receive the best possible course of treatment.
What is OAB?
OAB is not a disease. It’s the name given to a group of urinary symptoms that include a strong, uncontrollable urge to urinate at unexpected times, which may result in urine leakage (incontinence) and/or frequent urination during the day and night. Not all people with OAB suffer from incontinence. The symptoms of OAB can occur if the muscles in the bladder contract involuntarily when it isn’t yet filled with urine. Sometimes the nerve signals between the brain and bladder go awry, sending messages to empty the bladder at unexpected times. This creates a strong urge to urinate before the bladder is full.
Are you having troubling urinary symptoms, but don’t know what to tell your healthcare professional? You aren’t alone. Do your research, learn more about OAB and start talking!
Here are some tips to help you speak with your doctor about OAB:
- Be prepared: It’s important for your doctor to have as much information as possible when he or she is determining the best course of treatment. Making notes on your health history to take to your appointment can be very helpful for your doctor. In addition, it’s also a good idea to track your current symptoms, and make a list of all your prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, vitamins and herbal remedies.
- Speak frankly: Often, people are embarrassed to talk about their OAB symptoms – and that’s okay, but fear not, your doctor’s heard it all before! Being open about your OAB will help your doctor make a more precise diagnosis and ensure you get the best treatment.
- Bring backup: There’s nothing wrong with taking a friend or a relative along for support. In fact, having someone come to your doctor’s visit with you can even be helpful. Discuss your goals for the appointment beforehand with whoever you bring. He or she can help remind you of things you may have forgotten to bring up, and can serve as a second set of ears to help you understand and remember what the doctor says.
- Discuss impact on your everyday life: Be sure to explain exactly how your OAB symptoms are impacting your daily routine. For instance, are you avoiding activities that are too far from the bathroom? Are you unable to get a full night’s sleep or missing important life events because of your symptoms? This information can help your doctor get a better understanding of the severity of your OAB, which helps determine the appropriate treatment.
- Ask about testing: Have your doctor explain each diagnostic test and the information it provides. This will keep you in the loop about what your doctor is searching for, and may even spark something you had forgotten to mention about your symptoms.
- Learn the risks and benefits of treatment: Talk about all the options available to you, including the pros and cons of each and any possible side effects they may have. Also be sure to ask how quickly your symptoms will improve and when to call if you’re experiencing problems. The more informed you are at the start of your treatment, the less likely it is that you’ll experience any surprises down the road.
- Follow up: Make sure to ask your doctor when to schedule a second appointment and what information you’ll need to bring. It’s important to remain vigilant when treating OAB, so continue to check in with your doctor between appointments if you have any questions or concerns.
Urologists know all too well that people with OAB often keep quiet about their symptoms. Vibrant women should know that they have options; there’s no need to endure the discomfort of OAB alone or in silence. The condition is manageable, and if you take the first step and speak up about your OAB symptoms, you’ll be well on your way to happier days! For more information about OAB, you can visit a 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 on the Voices of OAB Facebook page for a chance to win a new tablet PC.