A Guest Post By Steven G. Gregg, Ph.D., Executive Director, NAFC
Overactive bladder affects millions of American women and impacts their daily lives in many ways. Some women experience mild symptoms – running to the bathroom a few times per day – without much more impact to their lives than that. Others are on the other end of the spectrum – unable to make it to the restroom in time, dealing with constant leaks, and always living in fear of having an accident. And while the medical community has made major strides in treatments available for OAB, many women continue to suffer in silence.
NAFC recently conducted a survey of women dealing with OAB to see how many of them actually reach out to their doctor about their symptoms, how many receive treatment, and how many actively treat their condition. And while some of the results were expected, many of the answers surprised us.
When we asked patients why they had not talked to their doctor about their condition, embarrassment topped the list. This is not so shocking, given the nature of OAB. However what really gave us pause is that of those who have never been diagnosed, 54% of women and 71% of men say they actually have had a discussion with their doctor.
These findings reveal that for different reasons, many are still not receiving treatment for OAB, a largely treatable condition. While there are definitely those who are simply too embarrassed to talk to someone about their condition (I’ll get to that in a minute) many people are in fact reaching out to their doctors for help and, for some reason, they are not getting it. Perhaps they are being prescribed a treatment that doesn’t work for them or has too many side effects. Perhaps their doctor has brushed off their concerns without elevating them to a specialist, like a urologist, who may be able to provide a more customized treatment. Or maybe the patients downplayed their symptoms due to their own embarrassment. Whatever the case may be, it is startling that such a large percentage of people continue to suffer even after requesting help. My advice to you would be this: don’t settle! Continue to talk to your doctor (or another doctor, if yours won’t listen) and demand a treatment plan. Educate yourself on your condition and the options available to you (NAFC is a great resource for this!). There are so many treatment options – medication, physical therapy, botox, interstim, ptsn, surgery, etc. Learn all you can about these so that you are aware of what is available and know what you are willing to try. Be your own advocate and continue to push the medical professionals in your life to help put you on a path toward treatment.
Now, for those of you who are still too embarrassed to talk to your doctor at all, let’s talk about this. Yes, OAB can be an embarrassing condition. Yes, it can be hard to bring this subject up to your doctor. And yes, based on our findings, your doctor may even imply that OAB is nothing to worry about. But, let me tell you – OAB is not a part of getting older. It’s not normal. It can, and should be treated. So it’s time, once and for all, to brush off your embarrassment, arm yourself with information about treatment options, and march into your doctor’s office to talk about this condition and demand treatment for it. If your case is severe (and really, even if it’s not), you may ask for a referral to see a urologist to ensure you are seeing someone who is specialized in treating OAB. And if you need help finding a specialist, use the NAFC locator tool to find one in your area.
What’s the main takeaway here? If you struggle with symptoms of OAB, it’s time to get treatment. OAB is something that no one has to live with and with so many treatment options available there is no reason that anyone should. Take matters into your own hands, be brave, speak up, and demand treatment. If you don’t do it for yourself, no one else will.
About Steve Gregg, PhD
Steve Gregg is the Executive Director of the National Association for Continence. He has a PhD in exercise biochemistry from the University of California at Berkeley, and has spent his career in product marketing at agencies such as Ogilvy & Mather, Ammirati Puris Lintas, and most recently, at AbelsonTaylor, among the nation's leading medical marketing and advertising firms. While at AbelsonTaylor, Steve played a key role in the company's direct-to-physician sleep aide category as well as their direct-to-consumer women's vein health and child nutrition efforts. Steve is also a world-class athlete, having medaled in nearly every major world swimming event, including the Olympic Games in 1976.
"What I appreciate most about my role at the NAFC is that I have the opportunity to combine my executive leadership background with my passion for healthcare promotion - especially patient advocacy," Steve says. "It's a great challenge to increase awareness and understanding of continence issues, and we have the opportunity to make strides that can improve the lives for literally millions of friends and family members. I don't think I've ever had a more important mission in my entire career."