Talk to Your Doctor if You Have Bladder Symptoms
The bladder is one of our most under-appreciated organs. We take it for granted
until we have problems: bladder leakage, overactive bladder, urinary frequency,
urgency, burning, pain or bleeding. Despite the pain and disruption bladder
symptoms cause, most patients ignore them out of fear or embarrassment. Myths
and misinformation guide patients' views of bladder problems.
The good news is that a little knowledge can go a long way towards restoring
bladder health. Speaking up also helps. Your doctor won't know your symptoms
if you don't tell him or her. Talking to your doctor is the first and most important
step towards a diagnosis and a solution. Most people with bladder pain, leakage,
or incontinence can't admit it. Yet it may be affecting their sex lives and
their social lives.
In a nationwide survey, more than one third of sexually active adults with
bladder problems reported that their sex lives are adversely affected. Nearly
half of the unmarried survey respondents said bladder problems were a reason
they were not in a relationship. Of the respondents who said they were not sexually
active, more than one-third attributed this to their bladder symptoms. While
solving sexually related problems is often complex, for those with bladder control
problems, many of their answers are only as far away as their physician.
Most adults are not aware that any urine leakage is abnormal. Urine leakage,
(incontinence) starts gradually and increases, often interfering with daily
activities. There are different types of incontinence. The most common is stress
urinary incontinence (SUI), which accompanies coughing, sneezing or physical
activity. While there are no approved medicines to treat SUI, there are treatments
currently being researched and there are also devices and surgical options.
Patients with urge incontinence or overactive bladder (OAB), have a sudden
urge to void and may not get to the toilet in time. Too many people with OAB
aren't aware that they have a problem. OAB symptoms are urinary frequency (urinating
more than eight times in a 24-hour period, including two or more times a night),
urgency (strong, sudden desire to urinate), and urge incontinence (accidental
loss of urine caused by an unstoppable urge to urinate). As with SUI, many people
with OAB mistakenly believe that this is an unavoidable part of aging they have
to live with. Accordingly, many patients suffer in silence without seeking help.
People with OAB have bladder contractions they can't control, but this problem
often controls them. Patients with OAB often practice "toilet mapping" (knowing
all the restrooms in your daily routine) and defensive voiding (urinating preventively).
They often carry pads, diapers, and clean undergarments, and they often limit
activities to those easily navigated without risking accidents. There are effective
medications that can treat this condition!
How do you know if you have a bladder problem? Urinary leakage under ordinary
circumstances is NOT normal and should be discussed with your doctor. Likewise,
blood in the urine is abnormal and must be evaluated. Recurrent vaginal or urinary
tract infections (UTIs) also require investigation. UTIs (cystitis) generally
have classic signs such as urinary burning, urgency, and lower abdominal pain
or pressure. There may also be bloody urine. Cystitis is usually treated easily
and quickly with antibiotics.
Some women have persistent bladder pain with urgency and frequency without
infection. This may be interstitial cystitis (IC). IC affects approximately
700,000 Americans; 90% are women. Its cause is unknown and it is difficult to
diagnose. This contributes to psychological, social, sexual, and hygienic problems
for patients with IC. There is one FDA-approved medicine to treat bladder pain
associated with IC: Elmiron®.
What should you do if you have problems controlling your bladder? Talk to your
doctor. Management options include behavioral changes, exercises, biofeedback,
and medicine. In many cases, patients can gain symptomatic relief and regain
control. For more information on bladder health, click here.
This article originally appeared on HealthNewsDigest.com.
Created: 8/1/2002  - Donnica Moore, M.D.