If you have urinary symptoms, make bladder concerns the focus of your next doctor appointment.
By Lindsey Konkel
Overactive bladder is a is a common dilemma. On average, people wait seven years before seeking treatment for bladder control problems, according to a recent survey by the National Association For Continence (NAFC). "People may feel embarrassed, or may not be sure how to broach the topic with their doctor," says Cheryle Gartley, president of The Simon Foundation for Continence. If you have OAB, our simple steps will help you get the best results from your next doctor's appointment.
1. See an expert. Your primary care doctor is a good place to start. However, not all physicians are well-trained in diagnosing and treating incontinence. If your family doctor or gynecologist is not, ask for a referral to a specialist such as a urogynecologist or continence care nurse.
2. Take note. One of the most important things to do is log your bathroom habits. "This gives your doctor a comprehensive picture of the symptoms you are experiencing and can help her get to the root of the problem," says Nancy Muller, Ph.D., director of the NAFC. Keep a bladder diary for two to three days before your visit. In it, note
- when you urinate,
- whether you urinate a lot or a little each time,
- what you eat and drink throughout each day,
- the number of accidents you experience,
- activities that seem to lead to leaks, and
- whether each leak is small, moderate or large.
In addition to a bladder diary, give your doctor a list of all medications you take, including over-the-counter and herbal products. Also, list medical procedures you’ve had (including vaginal births).
3. Know yourself. Make a list of the three to five most bothersome problems related to your bladder issues and share it during your appointment. Perhaps you don't leave home without knowing the precise location of every toilet along your route or you no longer participate in activities that you love, such as tennis or golf.
4. Set goals. Come into your appointment with a few very clear aims in mind. "Maybe you want to be taken seriously or you want to leave the office with a game plan, or you have a very personal goal, such as being able to wear white pants without fear of leakage," says Gartley. Remember, you and your doctor are a team, so be open with her about your wishes.
5. Train your bladder with a pro. If you have had little success with the pelvic floor exercises known as Kegels, tell your doctor. "Often, women who are self-taught have been doing them wrong," says Cheryle Gartley. Your doctor can help you figure out how to do them correctly or refer you to a therapist who can teach you proper technique and how to hone in on the right muscle groups.
Adapted from REMEDY's Healthy Living (Summer 2012)