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Women’s Health

Women’s Health

Reduce the Number of Toilet Trips

While you may consider bladder health an embarrassing subject to breach with close friends, let alone your health care provider, remember that it’s something that physicians talk about daily. To us, it’s science and it can be a telling sign of your overall health. Frequent urination – or having to use the restroom more than eight times in 24 hours – could be a symptom of a greater problem or it could be the problem. Either way, there are treatment options available and you can regain a normal life.

Women who are experiencing frequent urination without additional symptoms might be suffering from overactive bladder. Overactive bladder affects an estimated 17 to 53 million Americans. We do not know why the condition occurs and it is unclear whether childbirth has any relationship to it. In addition to frequent urination, other symptoms include waking up more than two times per night to urinate; urgency, or a sudden and strong desire to urinate; and urge incontinence, or accidentally wetting yourself due to not getting to a bathroom in time.

Treatment options for patients suffering from overactive bladder run the gamut and include exercises, diet and lifestyle modifications, as well as medications. Non-invasive, healthy bladder habits are listed below. While results will not occur overnight, steady improvement should occur over time.

1. Education – Learn as much as you can about overactive bladder. The more informed you are, the more you can help yourself.

2. Diet Modifications – The foods and beverages we consume play a critical role in our body’s functioning. Common bladder irritants include: coffee, tea, alcohol, citrus fruit, citrus juice, tomatoes, and spicy foods. In addition, monitor your fluid intake, especially before you go to bed.

3. Lifestyle Modifications – Many studies have documented the negative effects of stress on our health. It is common to experience an increased urinary frequency when under stress.

4. Exercises – It’s important to engage in a regular routine of physical exercise. Kegel exercises can help strengthen the muscles around the bladder and urethra and can often reduce urgency and frequency. In addition, take time to exercise your mind. Instead of immediately panicking at the first sign of needing to urinate, try to take a deep breath and relax. Bladder retraining can also be helpful in reducing frequency. It involves gradually increasing the time between using the restroom over the course of three months.

People suffering from overactive bladder may choose to take prescription drugs as a way to cope with the symptoms. These medications can be very beneficial for some people, but could include unwanted side effects such as dry mouth, constipation, and/or indigestion. While it depends on your insurance plan, these medications are usually covered at some level.

Just like any medical condition, it’s important to make an appointment with your health care provider so that together, you can determine the best course of treatment based on your individual health and medical history. Don’t just assume the problem you are experiencing is a normal part of aging or something that women just have to deal with. In fact, many people with overactive bladder are under the age of 65. There are many treatment options available to help you get back to a full life with far fewer restroom breaks.

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Lonny Green, MD, is a urologist who specializes in female urology. He is the founder and director of the Virginia Women's Continence Center. Dr. Green and his wife have six children - three boys and three girls.

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