Did you know that November is Bladder Health Month?
Bladder health isn’t something that’s talked about openly or often. Yet, it’s very important. The ultimate goal of Bladder Health Month is to help people speak more openly about it, improve their overall bladder health and raise bladder cancer awareness.
When we think about bladder health it raises the question: What important things do you need to know on this subject of bladder health? Two issues that you should be aware of are first, urinary incontinence and an overactive bladder (OAB), and what are worrisome symptoms that I should talk to my doctor about.
What is urinary incontinence? It is the uncontrollable leaking of urine. There are two most common types urinary incontinence: urge incontinence, and stress incontinence. Urge incontinence is caused by a sudden and very strong urge to urinate followed by leakage of urine, and can be closely related to an overactive bladder.
The second is stress incontinence and the result of a weakness in the pelvic floor. The pelvic floor is a strong muscle that surrounds and supports the bladder and urethra (the tube that connects to the bladder to remove urine from the body). This muscle relaxes when our bladders are full and it’s time to go, and importantly, stays strong and tight when we need to hold it.
At least 25 million people in the U.S. are known to have this weakness in their pelvic floor. However, there are likely millions more also suffering, why? Maybe it is because some fail to mention their symptoms to their doctors because they feel that nothing can be done about it. More commonly, though, people are just embarrassed to talk about it. Unfortunately, many reason the same way when it comes to an OAB.
An overactive bladder is one that suddenly contracts to create an urgent need to urinate and an inability to suppress that need for very long. This may happen even when there is only a small amount of urine in the bladder and it can occur with or without incontinence.
An OAB may need to be emptied more often than normal. A person has an OAB when they urinate more than eight times during the day and more than once at night.
How can a person fight back against these inconvenient issues? There are several ways.
- Drink plenty of water. Six to eight cups a day is the recommendation.
- Try to avoid coffee, tea, soda and alcohol which spark overactivity and increase the risk of leakage.
- As with drinks, try to avoid foods that contain caffeine such as chocolate.
- Acidic foods (e.g. tomatoes and citrus fruits), as well as spicy foods can lead to an overactive bladder and incontinence.
- Allow time for the bladder to empty completely when using the bathroom. Otherwise, over time, an infection could develop.
- Talk openly to a doctor who can give helpful suggestions for treatment. And remember, there’s no need to worry. Doctors have heard it all before.
If you’re a smoker, quit. Research has shown that smokers are two to three times more likely to develop bladder cancer than non-smokers. This is also a serious issue and one that’s avoidable, at least in part.
Overactive bladder and urinary incontinence are bothersome and often require people to change their lifestyle. These symptoms may be the result of an underlying problem that may be worse than just a weak muscle. It is important to discuss your symptoms with doctor so you can get proper treatment. Other worrisome symptoms you should watch out for are painful urination, not being able to fully empty your bladder, seeing blood in your urine, and changes in your urinary stream.
Don’t let fear or shame stop you from taking the necessary steps to protect your health. Why should you be robbed of having peace of mind every day? Don’t you think that you deserve to enjoy life and to be comfortable and at ease no matter where life takes you? Of course you do! So don’t neglect this important part of your health for any reason.