If you find yourself emptying your bladder before you leave the house, only to have to stop three times between here and Madison, you have an overactive bladder. “Overactive Bladder” is a term we use to describe a strong, frequent, bothersome urge to go to the bathroom. It is very, very common but it is NOT necessarily a “normal” part of aging. Sometimes the urge is so great folks have trouble making it to the bathroom fast enough. That’s called Urge Incontinence and it is at the far end of the wide spectrum of overactive bladder symptoms.
It is really important to bring up these symptoms to your doctor. The symptoms of having to urinate often and urgently could represent a bladder infection. If you have any blood in your urine associated with these symptoms you should be seen by your doctor right away. Cancers can develop in the bladder and sometimes the only symptom is the constant urge of having to void.
Ruling out something dangerous is usually as simple as an office-based urine test. Once you have ruled out an infection or other trouble, there are many different reasons to look into about why your life revolves around where the next bathroom might be.
You see, the bladder is meant to have a pretty boring existence. Ninety-nine percent of the day, the bladder should be spending its time filling with urine. That’s it, just hanging out. It’s supposed to wait until it is full before giving your brain the signal that “it’s time to go”. At that point, you should have plenty of time to get the bathroom without having an accident. Even if you’re 80 years old, you should have plenty of time to get to the bathroom without having an accident. You might say “Well, I’ve always been rushing to the bathroom”. If that’s the case, then we really should talk. Bad habits can seriously affect bladder function and with early intervention, we can prevent permanent bladder damage.
A lot of different things can interfere with normal bladder function: volume of fluid intake, type of liquid (Coffee caffeinated/decaf), bathroom posture, bowel function (especially constipation), nerve damage from prior pelvic surgery, other neurologic conditions like Parkinson’s Disease…the list goes on. Although treatment sometimes requires a medication, some patients do really well with some simple exercises and behavioral modifications.