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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.

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