An irritated bladder can lead to symptoms such as pain and a frequent or urgent need to urinate. Causes of an irritated bladder include injury, interstitial cystitis, and overactive bladder.

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Treatments for conditions that cause an irritated bladder may work for some people but not others.

For example, a healthcare professional may recommend lifestyle changes along with medication for overactive bladder (OAB) for some people, but other people may need to use other interventions.

Some complementary therapies and potential treatment options can help calm an irritated bladder. Read on to learn more.

According to the American Urological Association (AUA), a doctor may recommend that a person make changes to their behavior throughout the day.

People can make lifestyle adjustments such as:

  • scheduling bathroom visits throughout the day
  • eating different foods
  • changing drinking behaviors

Some other changes a person can make include:

  • delaying urinating by waiting to go to the bathroom
  • double voiding, which means voiding (emptying) the bladder, waiting a few seconds, and then voiding again
  • keeping a bladder diary
  • following a timed schedule and ignoring needs to go that occur at other times
  • reducing foods and drinks that irritate the bladder

Pelvic floor muscle exercises may help improve symptoms of an irritated bladder. A 2018 study found that pelvic floor exercises can help reduce the amount and frequency of urine leakage due to irritation or inflammation.

The AUA recommends trying Kegel exercises. These involve squeezing and holding the pelvic muscles for a few seconds.

It also recommends quick flicks. To perform a quick flick, a person repeatedly and quickly squeezes and releases their pelvic muscles.

Losing weight may help reduce mild symptoms associated with an irritated bladder. In a 2019 study, researchers found that engaging in exercises that help reduce abdominal fat had a positive effect on mild OAB symptoms.

Weight loss can have other positive effects on a person’s life, too. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some potential benefits of losing weight include:

  • improving blood cholesterol
  • lowering blood sugars
  • decreasing blood pressure

A person should discuss weight management strategies with a healthcare professional before engaging in any weight loss methods.

The National Association for Continence recommends that people modify their diet to help address their symptoms. It suggests foods and drinks to include and avoid in an OAB diet.

Some drinks a person should avoid include:

  • sports drinks
  • carbonated beverages
  • coffee
  • milk
  • teas, including black, green, regular, and decaffeinated
  • alcoholic beverages

Other foods and ingredients that a person should consider avoiding include:

  • milk-based products
  • sugar and artificial sweeteners, such as saccharin
  • brewer’s yeast
  • vitamins with aspartame
  • vinegar
  • strawberries
  • medications that contain caffeine
  • chocolate
  • citrus juice and fruits
  • tomatoes and tomato-based products
  • honey
  • sour cream
  • corn syrup
  • raw onion
  • spicy foods
  • soy sauce

A person can also record the foods they eat and any symptoms they experience after eating them. If a particular food appears to increase their symptoms, they may wish to consider avoiding that item.

Foods that a person with OAB should aim to consume include:

  • fiber
  • nuts
  • fruits and vegetables

A person may also consider eating lean proteins.

A healthcare professional may recommend several prescription medications for the treatment of OAB.

Some medications that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved include:

  • hyoscyamine (Levbid)
  • oxybutynin (Oxytrol)
  • darifenacin (Enablex)
  • tolterodine (Detrol)
  • solifenacin (Vesicare)

Some common side effects of medications include:

  • rapid heartbeat
  • dry eyes
  • constipation
  • dry mouth
  • confusion
  • headaches

A person living with interstitial cystitis may respond well to different medications. Some common medications for the treatment of the condition include:

  • alpha blockers
  • anti-seizure medications
  • leukotriene inhibitors
  • antihistamines
  • antimuscarinics
  • urinary antacids
  • prostaglandins
  • amphetamines

Importantly, a person should talk with a healthcare professional to get a proper diagnosis.

They can tell their doctor about their symptoms. This way, their doctor can properly treat symptoms of an irritated bladder.

The AUA notes that a doctor may recommend bladder Botox treatments if medications do not help improve symptoms.

Botox treatments can help relax the muscles of the bladder. This can help prevent the bladder from squeezing too much and causing symptoms of OAB.

A healthcare professional may perform the procedure right in the office. The effects typically last for about 6 months.

In a 2019 study, researchers found some promise for using Botox treatments for interstitial cystitis. The researchers recommend a need for additional studies to determine how effective the treatment can be in larger populations.

Research from 2020 indicates that optimal treatment for an irritated bladder remains a question. In cases where medications, lifestyle changes, and Botox do not work, a doctor may recommend nerve stimulation.

There are two types of nerve stimulation:

Percutaneous tibial nerve stimulation (PTNS)

A healthcare professional often performs this type of nerve stimulation in 12 treatment sessions. The procedure helps correct the communication between the brain and the nerves.

Sacral neuromodulation (SNS)

This procedure uses a bladder pacemaker device to help regulate the signal from the sacral nerve.

Supplement manufacturers state that several types of supplements can help with an irritated bladder. Though they may help some people, it remains unclear how well they will help the general population.

The authors of a 2013 review of supplements note that some supplements, such as capsaicin and resiniferatoxin, show promise. However, a lack of large scale studies means that experts cannot prove their effectiveness.

Current knowledge of supplements does not fully support their use for overactive bladder. A person should discuss their use of supplements with a healthcare professional.

According to Columbia University, people living with interstitial cystitis should quit or not start smoking. Since quitting smoking can have several other health benefits, people should consider quitting to help improve their overall health.

A healthcare professional can help a person create a smoking cessation plan or direct them to additional resources.

While no treatment works effectively for all cases of irritated bladder, a person may have the option to try several complementary therapies.

Individuals can work with a healthcare professional to develop the right combination of lifestyle changes and medical interventions to control their symptoms.

A person should seek medical advice if they are finding their current interventions and treatments ineffective.