You Don't Have to Be Embarrassed About Overactive Bladder

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Female doctor talking with a couple

It’s easy to be oversensitive about overactive bladder (OAB). Every social situation can be fraught with worry. Will you have an embarrassing leak in the supermarket? Will you suddenly need a toilet break during an important meeting? Or will you miss the fun when out with friends because you’re in the bathroom? If you let such worries hold you back, they can keep you from living your life to the fullest.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to keep your concerns in check. With a little planning, you can prevent or manage many OAB problems. Armed with advance solutions, you’ll greet social situations with greater confidence.

Banish Self-Consciousness

People don’t always talk about OAB the way they do about arthritis or high blood pressure. It’s easy to feel as if you’re the only one in this situation. But in reality, you’re far from alone. About 17% of women and 16% of men older than age 18 have OAB, according to the National Association for Continence.

Imagine that you’re walking through a crowded mall. There are probably dozens of other people with OAB shopping at the same time. Knowing that other people are facing—and handling—the same challenges as you is reassuring. It’s also good to know that you aren’t as conspicuous as you might feel. You can’t look around and tell which other shoppers have OAB, just as they can’t look at you and tell.

Take Charge of OAB—Smartly

Some people turn to alcohol when they feel ill at ease in social situations. But this strategy can backfire when you have OAB, because alcohol may irritate your bladder and promote urine leaks. A better way to boost your confidence is by avoiding foods and beverages that make your OAB worse. Alcoholic, carbonated, caffeinated, and diet drinks are common offenders. Other foods and drinks that might worsen your symptoms include decaf coffee, citrus juices, spicy dishes, tomato-based sauces, and chocolate.

To feel more in control of any situation, make sure that you and your doctor are doing everything you can for your OAB. There are many treatment options available. And when you have a treatment plan, follow it. If you’re on medication, take it as prescribed. If you do Kegel exercises, practice regularly. If you urinate on a schedule, set an alarm on your mobile phone to remind you of bathroom breaks when away from home.

Eliminate Embarrassment

Think positively—but also realistically. If urine leaks happen, you’ll feel more self-assured knowing that you’re well prepared. When appropriate, wear absorbent pads or underwear. Choose close-fitting products made from odor-reducing material with a cloth-like outer layer to avoid telltale smells and crinkling sounds. Pack extra supplies in a purse or daypack to carry with you whenever you’re out and about.

If you have an accident, don’t let it spoil your whole day. Clean up, change undergarments, and keep going. It’s unlikely that anyone else is aware of what happened. And millions of Americans experience the same thing every day. A quick pep talk to yourself helps keep your active life on track and your OAB in perspective.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 Apr 29

  1. Urinary Incontinence. American Academy of Family Physicians.

  2. Overactive Bladder. National Association for Continence.

  3. OAB: Frequently Asked Questions. National Association for Continence.

  4. Products. National Association for Continence.

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