Treating Overactive Bladder

Small changes in behavior and diet may decrease urinary frequency in people with overactive bladder

By Elizabeth Ferry, M.D.

If you find yourself running to the bathroom or always knowing where the closest bathroom is, you are not alone. Bothersome urinary frequency, or overactive bladder, impacts over a third of women during their lives.

This may also involve urinary leakage or getting up during the night to urinate, but even when it does not, urinary frequency may become very bothersome and decrease quality of life.

Treatment may be as simple as adjustments to diet or activity. Consumption of foods or beverages that are carbonated, caffeinated, alcoholic, highly acidic, sugary or contain artificial sweeteners may be very irritative to the bladder.

Common offenders are coffee, soda, seltzer water, and even diet supplements such as apple cider vinegar.

Not all irritants impact your bladder the same way. Knowing what makes your bladder need to urinate more frequently may enable you to avoid the bathroom by avoiding those specific foods or beverages.

Keeping a diary of what you have consumed on “bad” bladder days may help to identify triggers for overactivity.

In addition to attention to diet, there are other small changes in behavior that may decrease urinary frequency. People who have developed trouble walking or getting around may benefit from trying to urinate every two to three hours, rather than waiting until there is an urge to urinate. Getting up to urinate at night can be decreased by stopping fluids after dinner. Improvement in other medical conditions, especially better control of diabetes or sleep apnea, may also decrease nighttime urinary symptoms.

If your bladder is still controlling your day or night, talk to your doctor. A urologist could help to determine the cause of your bladder symptoms and tailor a treatment plan for you.

Treatment options may include bladder retraining or physical therapy, medicines, or minimally invasive clinic or surgical procedures, depending on your preferences and specific needs.

While this condition is common, it is not something that you need to live with.

Physician Elizabeth Ferry is a Watertown native. She completed medical school at SUNY Upstate in Syracuse and urology residency at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. She is currently an assistant professor of urology in the department of urology at SUNY Upstate Medical University, specializing in female and general urology.

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