'I'm 36 and struggling with incontinence - if I'm vertical I need to go to the loo'

Troubled Caucasian woman standing near ocean
-Credit: (Image: Getty Images/Tetra images RF)

Whether it’s trying to hold it in on a car journey or while queuing for a flight, or making it through a long wedding ceremony, the summer poses different obstacles when it comes to bladder control. And for people with an overactive bladder, things can be particularly difficult, as symptoms get in the way of having a summer of fun.

“Having an overactive bladder (OAB) can make your life miserable. It may cause you to feel scared to leave the house in case you can’t get to a toilet in time, which can affect your social life and relationships,” explains Dr Deborah Lee from Dr Fox Online Pharmacy (doctorfox.co.uk). “Additionally, it may make it hard to get a good night’s sleep [because of having to get up to wee] and this can cause you to feel tired or irritable.”

Most prevalent in people aged 65 and over, an overactive bladder is a relatively common condition.

Front view of a relaxed woman doing breathing exercise at home
Having an overactive bladder (OAB) can make your life miserable -Credit:Getty Images

Women may begin to experience symptoms when they’re as young as 45 years old. But even though it affects millions of people across the globe, that doesn’t make it any easier to talk about.

“OAB occurs when the muscles in the bladder contract by themselves without you doing it on purpose. As a result, this can cause you to suddenly need to go to the toilet, something you may not be able to control, which can cause leakage,” Dr Lee adds.

“In a normal situation, the nerves in the bladder wall tell the brain when the bladder is full. But with an overactive bladder, the brain is being told the bladder is full when it isn’t, or the bladder muscles are working overtime to empty it when it’s only half full.”

Mary Broddle, 47, founder of Mary Broddle Embroidery, was diagnosed with OAB in 2019. Here, she speaks to OK! about life with the condition...

“When I was 36 and pregnant with my second child, I was diagnosed with a health condition called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. It’s a connective tissue disorder, so my muscles all feel a bit floppy and it eventually began to really affect my bladder too.

I was eventually diagnosed with OAB around 2019. I’d probably had it for a lot longer, but it got to the point where, by the end of the day, if I was vertical I needed to go to the loo. I was constantly needing to go to the toilet because my bladder doesn’t empty efficiently.

To get a diagnosis I had to go to a continence clinic. I also got sent to a women’s health physio, and that helped.

Since being diagnosed I’ve been put on a drug called Solifenacin. It’s taken a while to find the right dosage for me because you don’t want to get to the point where you’re struggling to pee at all, which is what I got to. I then had to lower the dose to two or three times a week. It does something about the urge to pee, so it’s helped a lot. It’s still an hourly trip to the loo but it’s not as bad. It’s a lot better in the evenings now, too.

I think people talk about bladder issues a bit more now, but they still don’t talk about them enough. I’m part of the generation that’s openly talking about going through the menopause, but people still don’t really talk about continence issues much. It’s time we changed that.”

Find out more about Mary’s work at marybroddleembroidery.com