Overactive bladder (OAB) can be an uncomfortable condition to cope with. For some people experiencing OAB symptoms, the thought of discussing the situation can be almost as uncomfortable as the symptoms themselves.
However, it is only through open conversations with healthcare professionals that the correct course of treatment can be decided on and, hopefully, a life less interrupted by OAB symptoms can begin.
Preparing before an appointment to discuss OAB with a doctor and knowing what to expect, can make the conversation easy, helpful and stress-free.
People who suffer from OAB experience symptoms like strong sensations of an urgent need to urinate, needing to urinate many times during the day, plus having to wake up during the night several times to visit the bathroom.
An important first step is to remember that you are not alone. While an initial conversation about these symptoms may seem intimidating or unusual, in actuality it is a routine appointment for doctors.
The National Association for Continence (NAFC) estimates that 33 million people in the US have OAB. Doctors are well versed in these conversations and how to move forward with them.
However, in an interview with dailyRx News, S. Adam Ramin, MD, urologic surgeon and founder of Urology Cancer Specialists in Los Angeles, stressed that frequent urination is a very general symptom that might not necessarily point straight to OAB.
"If a patient is having frequent urination, it could be related to a lot of different things, from as simple as a urinary tract infection to as complicated as a neurological issue," said Dr. Ramin.
He noted that diabetes, stroke, bladder cancer, an enlarged prostate in men, menopausal changes in women, or prior abdominal surgery could all potentially be involved.
What to Expect
According to the Mayo Clinic, most people first visit their primary care doctor with symptoms of OAB and then are referred to a specialist if need be.
Urologists are urinary disorder specialists for both genders and urogynecologists focus on urinary disorders in women. The Mayo Clinic also notes that sometimes a physical therapist may be involved in the treatment process.
NAFC reports that, for many patients, relying on a team of experts, each with different specialties, is helpful for treating OAB.
At the first appointment, you can expect pretty basic questions from your doctor, perhaps in the form of an OAB questionnaire.
Questions may ask about how long you have been experiencing symptoms, if you sometimes leak urine, if the symptoms are interrupting your normal life, etc.
According to NAFC, you can also expect to be asked for a urine sample on the day of the appointment.
"Talk with the doctor's receptionist when you make the appointment and when you arrive, to see if there are tests, or preparations for tests, that you should know about, e.g., fasting after midnight," suggests the organization.
Playing Your Part
Now that you know a little more about what to expect from the doctor, there are some steps you should take yourself to be prepared.
One very important step is to bring in a bladder diary.
"Keep a bladder diary for a few days, recording when, how much and what kind of fluids you consume, when you urinate, whether you feel an urge to urinate and whether you experience incontinence," suggests the Mayo Clinic.
"In preparation, it is very important for the patient to have an idea about their voiding history (how often they are really urinating)," said Dr. Ramin.
Dr. Ramin also suggested patients pay attention to times of the day when symptoms are worse, and notice if certain foods or drinks change their symptoms, for better or worse.
This practice can help give the doctor a better understanding of your condition and symptoms, as well as possibly determine ways to lessen the need to get up and visit the bathroom at night.
In fact, several other lists (written down on paper to ensure you don't forget anything) can be helpful.
NAFC also recommends preparing lists of all of the medications you currently take plus any operations or procedures you have had.
Medications can include prescription medications, over-the-counter medications and vitamins or supplements.
The history of operations or procedures should go back at least 10 years in history, suggests NAFC. Women should also take care to note details about pregnancies, including number of deliveries, baby weight, and method of delivery (vaginally or Caesarean section).
"Take a list of all your doctors, medical conditions, such as diabetes, sleep disorders, or heart problems, to your appointment," recommends NAFC.
"It is also important for a patient to think about if there are other symptoms," said Dr. Ramin, "like any pain, if they have noticed any blood in the urine, a change in the smell of the urine or any leakage."
The Mayo Clinic notes that it is important to mention any symptoms that may not initially seem related, especially if they are related to bowel function.
It is also important to prepare a list of questions that you have for your doctor. This is to help make sure you leave feeling educated and satisfied, not unsure or unclear.
It is through making that initial doctor's appointment that you can start to get relief from OAB symptoms.
NAFC reports that treatment for OAB can look different from patient to patient, but often includes a combination of behavioral changes, treatments and medications.
Sometimes, dietary changes or pelvic muscle exercises are needed, in other cases, different medications (some prescription, some over-the-counter) are taken and sometimes nerve stimulation therapies are used to treat OAB.
No matter what treatment is decided upon, it all begins by setting up that first appointment. Being prepared, knowing what to expect and being open with the doctor will help make the visit and the treatment go easily and smoothly.