Talking With Your Doctor About Overactive Bladder Treatment

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Doctor laughing with senior female patient

Don’t suffer in silence if you are one of the 33 million Americans with overactive bladder. The condition is treatable. And the road to relief starts with a talk with your doctor. Here are topics to bring up with your doctor that will help him or her decide the best course of treatment—for you.

Be Ready to Answer Questions

To decide on the best treatment for you, your doctor needs to ask lots of questions. Many of these questions may seem very personal. Knowing what your doctor is going to ask ahead of time can help you feel more at ease. It also can help you prepare your answers and remember important details. 

Questions your doctor may ask include:

  • How often do you urinate?

  • How often do you often feel the urge to urinate?

  • Do you ever leak urine? If so, how much?

  • When you go to the bathroom, how much urine do you produce?

  • How much do you drink during the day?

  • Are you taking any medicines or supplements? If so, what?

  • How much caffeine do you consume daily?

  • Have you recently been sick or had surgery?

  • Do you have any other health problems?

Be Ready to Ask Questions

Many things can cause overactive bladder. The treatment may vary depending on the cause. Once your doctor figures out the cause in your case, the two of you will talk about how to manage it. 

It’s important that you understand the risks and benefits of your treatment options. You also may have concerns or questions about how the condition affects your health overall or your quality of life. Be sure to mention all of this to your doctor. Again, it helps to think about these things before your appointment. Write down your questions ahead of time. This will help you feel less nervous and overwhelmed. It will also help you remember everything you want to ask.

Most treatment involves at least one of these areas:

  • Exercise. Your doctor may suggest that you try certain exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. These are the muscles that help control the release of urine from your body. Be sure you understand how to do these exercises and how often to do them. And ask how much your doctor thinks this type of exercise will help you.
  • Lifestyle changes. Often, changing some daily habits helps people manage their condition. For instance, losing weight may help. Or changing how much or when you drink fluids can make a difference. These behavior changes might not get rid of your symptoms entirely. But studies show that they can improve your quality of life. No matter what your doctor suggests for you, be sure to ask how soon you should expect to see results and what to do if these changes don’t help.
  • Medication. Your doctor might prescribe oral medication to treat your overactive bladder. Often, this is an antimuscarinic drug. These drugs work by stopping involuntary bladder contractions. The most common side effects are dry mouth and constipation. To avoid drug interactions, make sure you tell your doctor about all other medicines you take. That includes over-the-counter drugs and supplements. 
  • Botulinum injections. For women who do not respond to or cannot tolerate pharmacotherapy, injection of botulinum toxin into the detrusor muscle is also an FDA-approved option.
  • Surgery. This treatment is rarely necessary. However, surgery may be an option in some severe cases. If your doctor suggests an operation, don't hesitate to ask for details about the procedure. You should also talk with your doctor about risks, recovery time, and the results you can expect.

Try to Relax

Talking with your doctor about your overactive bladder can be hard. But it's a must-do in order to get treatment. It might be easier if you remember: 

  • You are not alone. Overactive bladder is a common problem. One in five adults older than 40 has this condition.

  • This is not a normal part of aging. The risk of overactive bladder does go up as you get older. However, the answer is to seek help for your symptoms. That means talking with your doctor.

  • Overactive bladder is treatable. You might need to try more than one type of treatment. What works for one person might not work as well for someone else. But all types of urinary incontinence are treatable. A good talk with your doctor is key to finding the right treatment for you.
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Aug 4

  1. Gormley EA, et al. Diagnosis and Treatment of Overactive Bladder (Non-Neurogenic) in Adults: AUA/SUFU Guideline. J Urol. 2012;188(6 Suppl):2455-63.

  2. FDA News Release: FDA Approves Myrbetriq for Overactive Bladder. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm310096.htm

  3. Macdiarmid SA. Concomitant medications and possible side effects of antimuscarinic agents. Rev Urol. 2008;10(2):92–98.

  4. What is Overactive Bladder? Urology Care Foundation. http://www.urologyhealth.org/urologic-conditions/overactive-bladder-(oab)

  5. Talking With Your Doctor: Planning Your Doctor Visit. National Institutes of Health. NIHSeniorHealth. http://nihseniorhealth.gov/talkingwithyourdoctor/planningyourdoctorvisit/01.html

  6. Talking With Your Doctor: Asking Questions. National Institutes of Health. NIHSeniorHealth. http://nihseniorhealth.gov/talkingwithyourdoctor/askingquestions/01.html

  7. Urinary Incontinence in Women. National Institutes of Health. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/urologic-disease/urinary-incontinence-women/Pages/facts.aspx 

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