Overactive Bladder (OAB)

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OAB: Overactive Bladder

WebMD Live Events Transcript

An estimated 13 million Americans -- 85% of them women -- suffer from bladder control problems, a condition known as urinary incontinence. Are you one of them? It can be embarrassing and upsetting. If you get that sudden, uncontrollable urge to urinate, it may be overactive bladder (OAB). Olympic gymnastics champion Mary Lou Retton, "America's Sweetheart," suffered for years with OAB symptoms. She joined us on Aug. 10, 2005 to chat about her experience.

The opinions expressed herein are the guests' alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

MODERATOR:
Welcome to WebMD Live, Mary Lou. Thank you for joining us today.

RETTON:
It's good to be here. Thank you.

MODERATOR:
How long did you have symptoms of OAB?

RETTON:
I cannot remember a time when I did not have it. But I did not know that I had it. I lived with this condition my entire life not knowing it. I know we're on the computer now, but those of you that know of me, I'm little, 4 foot 9, weight probably less than 100 pounds, so my motto was little people had little bladders. I always justified and made excuses for why I had to go the bathroom so much.

It was probably in my teenage years when I really saw that I was a little bit different from my teammates, training with for the Olympics at this time, training with my coach. I would be the only teammate that would have to sneak out of the gym real fast go to the bathroom and sneak back in -- my teammates would cover for me. My teenage years were probably the first time that I noticed that I might not be normal in this area. Again, I kept justifying it. I wasn't dying, it wasn't that serious; I just went to the bathroom a lot.

People who suffer from this condition, OAB, were pros. We use all kind of coping skills to live with this condition.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Did it interfere with your sport? How did you handle it during competition?

RETTON:
It did interfere with my sport. Again, not knowing I had this condition I always had the fear that if I was up on the balance beam, the bars or any of the events during a competition I would have that small fear in the back of my mind -- oh my goodness, what happens if I have to go to the bathroom? So what I would do is curtail my drinking and for an athlete who's training at an Olympic level, drinking plenty of water and hydrating yourself is a priority. But I would stop drinking usually midmorning the day of a competition so I would not have that fear, and that's terrible.

"How did you manage pregnancy when we all have to go all of the time?"

MEMBER QUESTION:
Do you have children? How did you manage pregnancy when we all have to go all of the time? It must have been rough.

RETTON:
Yes, it was. I have four children, four little girls. They're 10, 8, 5, and 3. When I speak on this condition to the public, I use being nine months pregnant as an example: people who suffer from OAB feel like they have to go all the time, just like you feel when you're nine months pregnant. It's very uncomfortable.

MODERATOR:
Are any of the girls little gymnasts?

RETTON:
Yes. My 10- and 8-year-old are on the gymnastics team. My 5- and my 3-year-old take gymnastics once a week for one hour. But we also play soccer, softball, and are involved in the church choir.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Mary Lou, did you discuss this with your girlfriends? I think I may have an overactive bladder too, but I thought I was just getting older.

RETTON:
Yes, I do and did talk to my girlfriends about it. Before I was actually diagnosed with this condition, we would sit around discussing this topic and we would blow it off, blow each other off, meaning, what do you expect, you have four kids, things are different down there now. And that's absolutely not the case. Now, I am not a doctor or physician and I know childbirth has many issues of their own, but having children does not cause overactive bladder.

MEMBER QUESTION:
When did you first go to the doctor for this condition?

RETTON:
After I had my last daughter I was 35 years old and it was at the urging of my husband and my oldest daughter. The running joke in our family: "oh, gosh, mom has to go to the bathroom again." Those two finally said, "Mom, that's not normal, you should go see a specialist." This condition was starting to affect my life in ways that I didn't like.

Quick GuideUrinary Incontinence in Women: Bladder Control and More With Pictures

Urinary Incontinence in Women: Bladder Control and More With Pictures

MODERATOR:
What kind of specialist did you see?

RETTON:
A urologist. It was so simple.

MODERATOR:
What steps did the urologist take to diagnose you with OAB?

RETTON:
She took a urine sample, tested it, did whatever the doctors do, it came back completely normal, and then she sent me home and she told me to keep a diary for two days. I was to write down all the liquids that I was drinking during the day and write down how many times I went to the bathroom. After two days of this I went back to see her and it was pretty eye opening. Within those two days, during just one day, I went to the bathroom as often as 20 to 25 times.

MODERATOR:
Once you saw it in writing, were you surprised to see how often you were running to the bathroom?

RETTON:
Absolutely. With four daughters you can imagine someone always has to go to the bathroom -- I lived in the bathroom. People who suffer with OAB, we always find the excuses and reasons to go. When I saw it in writing it was eye opening.

"I take a once a day medication...it is something that has changed my life."

MODERATOR:
What did the doctor recommend?

RETTON:
She recommended a medication that I take once a day that works for me. It's so easy and it is something that has changed my life. It's cut my bathroom time in half. When one of your daughters comes to you after a soccer game and says, "Mommy, did you see my goal I made?" and you embarrassingly say, "no, Mommy was at the port-a-potty" -- those little things were starting to affect me. With my treatment and medication, I don't miss many soccer goals any more.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Before treatment did you ever feel like you would want to hide when this would happen?

RETTON:
No, but many people do. There's a fear and anxiety that come with this condition. Many people, 33 million people that we know of that suffer from this, don't leave their house. That's a severe case, but many people have the fear that if they have that urge there's nowhere to go, so they don't go.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Were there any side effects?

RETTON:
The only thing that I experienced was a little dry mouth. And I will take a dry mouth over going to the bathroom 25 times a day any day.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Were you relieved to get the diagnosis, or did you have a hard time accepting it?

RETTON:
I was relieved. I'm a take-charge person, and it was a relief to me that I was able to be diagnosed so easily. I felt blessed, because this is a treatable condition and I knew that my life was about to change, so I was relieved.

MODERATOR:
How long did it take before you noticed a change?

RETTON:
Within a week or two -- very quickly.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Why did you decide to come out and speak about your condition now?

RETTON:
I'm at a stage in my life where I'm 37 years old, married for 15 years with four children and I'm able to get involved in issues that are important to me and affect me. And this is one of them.

A lot of people who suffer from this condition, OAB, are embarrassed to talk about it. And also, this condition I know in the past has been associated with the elderly, that this is an old person's problem. It's absolutely not. So if I can help bring attention or bring down that wall of embarrassment, then I will do what I can to help.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Did the physician speak to you about other alternatives or was medication the only thing she offered?

RETTON:
Medication was the first thing that she offered, but there are many other things that they can do for this condition if the medication does not work for you. I feel very blessed that that is what works for me, because it's so simple.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Do you still have to restrict fluids? What about
Kegel exercises, do they help?

RETTON:
The doctors say that they do. I'm not real consistent on my exercises. I do try to monitor my fluid intake. I'm a very healthy person. I eat healthy, I cook healthy, I drink all the water like we're supposed to, but I still do monitor large amounts if I know I'm going to be in the car for a long time or at a place that does not have a facility.

Also, the physicians would like for you to cut back on caffeine, as well, because that tends to, I guess, irritate your bladder. I believe everything in moderation is the key.

MODERATOR:
You said prior to treatment you went to the bathroom about 20 times a day. How often do you have to go now?

"I've learned this condition can affect children, teenagers, men, women, in my age group, older, the elderly - anybody."

RETTON:
It's cut in half, eight or nine times a day now, which is still borderline. I'm working with Pfizer and a web site they have, which is called Life Beyond the Bathroom. You can go to that site and take a survey or a test to see if you possibly could be suffering from this condition. One of the questions is: Do you go to the bathroom more than eight times a day? But from 20 to eight or nine, that's pretty good, I'll take it.

MODERATOR:
On WebMD there is a quiz you can take to see if you might have OAB. You can get to it at www.my.webmd.com/content/tools/1/quiz_overactive_bladder.htm

Quick GuideUrinary Incontinence in Women: Bladder Control and More With Pictures

Urinary Incontinence in Women: Bladder Control and More With Pictures

MEMBER QUESTION:
What is the typical age range?

RETTON:
I am not a doctor, but just in my travels and speaking on this condition, I've learned that it can affect children, teenagers, men, women, in my age group, older, the elderly - anybody. And it can be hereditary so I will have all four of my daughters tested.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Do you feel as if the increase in diagnosis of OAB is due to people being more open and willing to discuss the condition?

RETTON:
Absolutely, yes. And it's part of my job, I hope, to bring down that wall of embarrassment. This is a real condition that affects people. It is so easily diagnosed and treatable, so getting the awareness out is something that is so important so that we can help people.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Did you find that when you did go, you did not void a lot?

RETTON:
Sometimes yes and sometimes no. When you have OAB, you feel like your bladder is full when it's not. And sometimes very, very little would come out.

MODERATOR:
But the urge was still there?

RETTON:
Yes, the urge was still there.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Did your condition interfere with intimacy?

RETTON:
No, it never did.

MEMBER QUESTION:
I was getting one-minute warnings to urinate and mostly never made it on time. These occurred while doing dishes, brushing my teeth or running water. It would interrupt
sleep at least 2-3 times a night and occasionally waking up wet, etc. I've had two bladder suspensions -- the first, stitches did not hold and the second, more extensive stitching which lasted a month or so. The only way to do the suspension was a total hysterectomy. I have been to clinics where electronic gadgets were inserted in my vagina; I did not care for that procedure. Since then, the doctor has washed his hands of me. I wear pads for daytime and thick pads at night. Is there anything or anyone I can turn to? I base my life around the closest bathroom if I go out.

RETTON:
My heart goes out to you. The Internet is such a great source of information these days that I'm sure there's somebody or something that can help you. I'm so sorry. Perhaps you can find a female urologist.

MODERATOR:
Mary Lou, we are almost out of time. Before we wrap things up for today, do you have any final comments for us?

RETTON:
Yes. Take charge of your health and of your life. Living with overactive bladder is not fun but it is a condition that can be treated. If you think, even remotely, that you might have this condition, please go see a urologist and get diagnosed, because there is help, you do not need to live in fear.

MODERATOR:
Are you still doing any gymnastics?

RETTON:
With four girls taking gymnastics, of course. We play in the front yard and all, but my days of that are over.

MODERATOR:
Are your daughters intimidated by your success or inspired by it?

RETTON:
Inspired by it I hope.

MODERATOR:
Our thanks to Mary Lou Retton for joining us today.



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Reviewed on 9/14/2005 8:39:05 PM

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