Living with an overactive bladder: ‘I was feeling so degraded and embarrassed’
Approximately 7 million people in the UK are affected by an overactive bladder, the condition can be embarrassing and prevent people from talking to their doctor about it.
According to a new survey from Astellas and the Bladder & Bowel Foundation 80 per cent of adults agree wetting themselves in public is the most embarrassing thing that could happen to them.
Tim Harvey who suffers from OAB shares his experiences about the condition.
I can remember as a small child at school, that I was the one who constantly needed the toilet during lessons. Even family outings were interrupted by my trips to the toilet, it never occurred to anyone that it could be anything else – I just took after my grandmother with a weak bladder.
During my early childhood and into my teens, I only experienced OAB symptoms, such as frequent and urgent need to go to the toilet throughout the day. However my symptoms started to change as I reached my late twenties, when it started to interrupt my sleep and I started to wet the bed. For 10 years I was just too embarrassed to talk to anyone about it. How could a man in his thirties say he’s wetting the bed? My wife eventually persuaded me to seek help.
My GP referred me to a urologist, however in those days the words Overactive Bladder or OAB were not mentioned. Although the treatment helped during the day for five or six years, I was still wetting the bed two or three times a week. So I just carried on, adapting my life so that I could cope with my condition. By the time I reached my early forties, OAB started to impact on my life 24 hours a day, I was now having almost nightly accidents. It was starting to affect me both physically and mentally, I was feeling so degraded and embarrassed.
I work for the Highways Agency and my job involves spending long hours on the road with sometimes limited access to toilets, and it was only then that I began to realise living like this wasn’t right. None of my colleagues needed the loo as regularly as I did and the frequent toilet breaks were disrupting my job. I was only half-concentrating because I was so concerned that I would leak in public. I was becoming increasingly embarrassed and ashamed of my condition.
It was whilst clearing debris from the motorway, I felt I needed to go to the toilet, but I couldn’t hold on, so standing in front of the traffic, I wet myself. A female colleague who was a former nurse realised what was going on, and I because I was too embarrassed myself, she finally agreed that she would buy some adult pads (nappies) for me to wear during the day.
It still took me three attempts to see my GP but each time I cancelled at the last minute, I was too embarrassed to speak to a male GP. Eventually I booked an appointment with a female GP, finally I was able to open up, and all my feelings and emotions came pouring out. I was then referred to a urologist, where I tried many different treatments which unfortunately were not effective. If only I hadn’t “suffered in silence” and had gone to see my GP much earlier, the outcome may have been very different.
Tim Harvey is a Trustee of the Bladder and Bowel Foundation charity.
BladderProblem.co.uk is a patient awareness campaign sponsored by Astellas in partnership with the Bladder and Bowel Foundation.
The Independent received no payment for publication of this item.
For more information visit www.bladderproblem.co.ukTagged in: bladder, Bladder & Bowel Foundation, bladder infection, bowel infection, overactive bladder
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