- Questions & Answers
- Ask the GP
Are bladder problems just a normal part of aging?
Although overactive bladder symptoms are more common as people get older, it can happen at any age. Urinary incontinence is not a normal part of that process. If you find you often feel an urgent and overwhelming need to urinate, are making too many trips to the bathroom, and sometimes have leakages, you may have a bladder problem and should contact your GP for advice and treatment.
How often is ‘too often’ to urinate during the day and also at night?
Most adults urinate four to seven times a day and only have to get up once during the night, or not at all, to use the bathroom. If you find that you urinate eight or more times in a 24-hour period, and get up to urinate two or more times a night, then you may have a bladder problem and should talk to your GP about possible causes.
Are there different types of bladder problems?
Yes, there are several types of urinary incontinence. These include:
- Urge Incontinence is when you have an urgent and uncontrollable desire to pass urine, caused by a sudden squeezing of the muscle in the wall of the bladder.
- Stress Incontinence is when urine leaks because of sudden pressure on your lower stomach muscles, such as when you cough or lift something.
- Overflow Incontinence is the uncontrollable leakage of small amounts of urine caused by an overfilled bladder.
- Functional Incontinence can occur when you just can’t make it to the bathroom on time because of a physical ailment, such as arthritis, that makes it hard to move around.
- Reflex Incontinence can occur when a person has little or no control over their bladder because they can’t feel the urge to urinate as a result of spinal or neurological injury or disease.
- Mixed Type Incontinence is when some people have more than one type of bladder problem.
Is overactive bladder treatable?3
Yes, OAB is very treatable and is not just something you need to accept, but it requires commitment from you and your doctor. Overactive bladder symptoms can be managed successfully by training your bladder, strengthening your pelvic floor muscles and, if needed, by medication.
What is bladder training?9
Bladder training, for those with an overactive bladder, involves learning to delay trips to the toilet when you feel the urge. You start by delaying for short periods of time while gradually building up to longer periods of time between urges. For example, if you usually urinate every hour, you can delay that trip by fifteen minutes using relaxation techniques or by distracting yourself with a book or crossword puzzle. Then gradually lengthen the time between when you urinate (for example, by 30 minutes) until you're urinating every 3 to 4 hours. Bladder training is effective in helping you regain control over your bladder but you must be patient as it can take from three weeks to three months to see results.
I’m too embarrassed to talk to my doctor, what should I do?
Overactive bladder (OAB) is more common than you think - about 350,000 people in Ireland may be affected by OAB. Unfortunately, a lot of people are too self-conscious and embarrassed to talk about their bladder problem and may wait several years before approaching their doctor for help. It’s important to remember that OAB is a medical condition where the bladder squeezes uncontrollably. It is not your fault and it’s not something you have to live with. OAB is very treatable so take that first step and contact your doctor.
Sometimes I accidentally leak urine. What can I do?
There are several things you can do to help avoid embarrassing accidents. Certain drinks, for example, can make urinary symptoms worse and those are typically caffeinated drinks, alcohol, fizzy drinks and citrus fruit juice. Spicy foods may also irritate the bladder so try to cut down or cut out these potential OAB triggers. If you find that you regularly leak urine you can wear a discreet pad in your underwear for peace of mind. These come in many shapes and sizes and absorbency levels. If you’re embarrassed buying them in a shop, you can order them online instead. You should consult your doctor about any accidents you’re experiencing.
Sometimes I leak a little urine during sex. What can I do?
Try not to drink anything for an hour or more before sex and make a quick trip to the bathroom to empty your bladder before slipping between the sheets. For peace of mind, you can use a ‘feel dry’ protective bed sheet just in case.
Is there one definitive cause of overactive bladder?2
No, there is no single cause of an overactive bladder (OAB). The overwhelming urge to urinate, which is one of the leading symptoms of OAB, is as a result of involuntary bladder muscle contractions (squeezing) and this can be caused by a number of factors, such as urinary tract infection, constipation, a blockage of the bladder (ie. tumour, enlarged prostate etc), drinking too much caffeine or alcohol, neurological disorders, such as Parkinson's disease, strokes and multiple sclerosis, and some medications.