Did you know? Nearly half of all women over age 50 suffer from urinary incontinence but haven’t seen a doctor about their condition. Another 17% of women have a condition known as urinary frequency, where they have to use the restroom more than eight times a day. A full bladder wakes up two out of every three women each night. The condition, known as nocturia, is just one of several disorders that many women assume are part of aging and accept as unavoidable.
A woman’s bladder may be the most neglected part of her body and is often left out of her healthcare routine. Because of this, doctors have designated November as Bladder Health Month to spread awareness. It’s a time to talk about our pelvic health and our often-overlooked bladders.
What Is the Bladder?
The bladder is where bodies store urine in the lower part of the abdomen. Your kidneys send liquid waste in the form of urine into the bladder for release outside the body. The bladder is connected to the urethra, which is a tiny tube that excretes urine as pee. All of these systems are connected. If any one of them malfunctions, it can negatively affect your overall health.
Your bladder, bowel, and uterus are all next to each other in an area of the body known as the pelvis. For women, pelvic health is important not only for their reproductive capacity but also for overall health and wellness.
What Are Signs My Bladder Isn’t Working Right?
Some common signs that your bladder isn’t working properly include:
- Bladder leaking
- Bloody urine
- Cloudy urine
- Frequent urination
- Pain during intercourse
- Pain or pressure in the lower abdomen
- Strong smelling urine
See your doctor if any of these symptoms occur. Not only can your bladder develop serious conditions, but issues with your bladder can signal other health problems, including cancer.
What Conditions Impact My Bladder?
Some of the most common conditions that can occur in the bladder include:
- Bladder Cancer
- Cystitis (inflammation of the bladder caused by infection)
- Interstitial Cystitis (a chronic bladder inflammation that causes pain and an urgent need to urinate)
- Overactive Bladder (involuntary and frequent urination)
- Stress Urinary Incontinence (such as peeing when you sneeze)
Thankfully, all of these conditions can be treated by your doctor. Your doctor will use a range of tests to diagnose your condition, which may include urine analysis, x-rays, or an internal scope called a cystoscope. Once you have a diagnosis, the physician will recommend the appropriate treatment or home remedy to help your issue.
How Can I Take Better Care of My Bladder?
Bladder Health Month (November) is an excellent time to concentrate on the care of this often-overlooked organ and to discover strategies to control some of your bladder problems.
If you’ve been struggling with bladder control issues, there are several things you can do to take better care of yourself. For example, if you wake up several times in the night to urinate, try drinking most of your fluids in the morning and afternoon, gradually tapering down as you near bedtime. It may also help to skip alcohol or caffeinated beverages, which increase the amount of urine your body produces.
What if you have the opposite problem? Is your urine dark, thick, and concentrated? That may be a sign you’re not getting enough fluids. Dehydration can irritate the bladder and lead to poor overall health. Your urine is a broad indicator of your health, so try increasing your fluids. Generally, the recommended water intake for women is about 11-12 cups a day. However, the amount you drink depends on your overall health and your doctor’s recommendations.
If you have an overactive bladder, you may already be accustomed to a busy bathroom schedule. You may even get up several times in the night to urinate. Over time, your bladder may end up sending messages that it’s full even when it isn’t. Talk with your doctor about the process of bladder retraining, which helps adjust your habits to overcome this problem. For example, bladder training requires you to go to the bathroom on a set schedule, gradually increasing the time between visits.
If you’re struggling with incontinence, there are exercises you can perform to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles called Kegels. The pelvic floor muscles open and close the urethra, releasing urine from the bladder. These same muscles can keep you from leaking urine when you sneeze or exercise. You can even practice Kegel exercises when you urinate by stopping the stream of urine for three seconds. Repeat this several times. Access Kegel exercises on the Women First website here and talk with your doctor about whether this could be an effective way for you to improve your bladder control.
Are Bladder Issues Normal? The Facts
You may be embarrassed to talk about your bladder health and assume that your incontinence or other bladder symptoms are a normal part of life. Perhaps that’s why so many women suffer from bladder issues but don’t talk to their doctor until the problem becomes serious.
Bladder Health Month is a good time to recognize the facts about bladder health and disprove the misleading assumption that a malfunctioning bladder is a normal part of life and should be ignored.
Facts About Bladder Health
- Problems with your bladder aren’t an inevitable part of the aging process
- In most cases, bladder problems can be treated without surgery or medication
- Urinating frequently can be normal if you’re drinking lots of fluids
- Eating and drinking excessively can impact bladder issues
If you have bladder concerns, the good news is you no longer have to suffer in silence. Help is just around the corner. At Women First, we help women of all ages address bladder issues by offering targeted treatment to alleviate their worst symptoms.
Women First of Louisville is here to support you during Bladder Health Month and at all times of the year. Talk with our team today if you’re concerned about your health.