Danielle Harold: Soap star on her ‘long-term’ condition – most common bladder problems

EastEnders: Camilla honours domestic abuse victims in royal ep

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Having first auditioned for the part on the BBC soap aged 19, Harold has portrayed Lola on and off since 2011. The character has been involved with some challenging storylines including teen pregnancy and most recently her love interest Isaac Baptiste, who was battling schizophrenia, and according to sources is “eager to throw herself” into the upcoming storyline that will be her last. Off-screen, Harold’s rise to fame has at times been as turbulent as an EastEnders storyline.

Due to the diagnosis of a “long-term bladder condition”, Harold was in and out of hospital. This majorly affected her schooling and the star left with only one GCSE to her name.

Going straight into a waitressing job after school the now 30-year-old Londoner admitted that her lifelong acting ambition seemed to be slipping away. However, she soon landed a spot on a Jamie Oliver programme – Jamie’s Dream School.

The documentary series, which aired in 2011, saw the TV chef enrolling struggling teens into a special school where they were taught lessons by celebrities and experts in their field.

Having thrived on the show, Harold won scholarship money to further her career which she spent on a drama teacher. With the help of her agent, before long she was auditioning for EastEnders.

Her success story is an inspiration to thousands of young people across the country, and looking back even Harold is still grateful for the opportunities she has been given. In a past interview when asked if she was worried about being axed from the soap she replied: “Not in the slightest. I’ve had a great time here and when it comes to an end, it comes to an end.

“With this being my first job, and because it was so crazy how I came here, I just take life as it comes. Whatever happens, happens. I like that.”

Although not going into further detail about the exact bladder condition she suffered from, Medline Plus explains that numerous conditions can affect the organ. Some of the most common bladder conditions include:

  • Cystitis – inflammation of the bladder, often from an infection
  • Urinary incontinence – loss of bladder control
  • Overactive bladder – a condition in which the bladder squeezes urine out at the wrong time
  • Interstitial cystitis – a chronic problem that causes bladder pain and frequent, urgent urination
  • Bladder cancer.

Many bladder problems are common in both men and women, whilst some are related to the anatomical differences between men and women. If left untreated problems with the bladder can severely affect an individuals quality of life including sexual health and emotional wellbeing.

The first common problem, cystitis, is a urinary tract infection (UTI) that also affects the bladder. It can cause a variety of painful and uncomfortable symptoms, with some people getting them frequently.

Symptoms of cystitis include:

  • Pain, burning or stinging when you pee
  • Needing to pee more often and urgently than usual
  • Pee that’s dark, cloudy or strong smelling
  • Pain low down in your tummy.

Cystitis is usually caused by bacteria from poo getting into the tube that carries urine out of your body (urethra). Women have a shorter urethra than men. This means bacteria are more likely to reach the bladder and cause an infection.

Although the condition does often get better by itself, some individuals may opt to have antibiotics in order to treat the condition. Other ways in which individuals can help to prevent cystitis include:

  • Wipe from front to back when you go to the toilet
  • Pee as soon as possible after sex
  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially water – so that you pee regularly during the day and do not feel thirsty
  • Have a shower rather than a bath – this stops exposing your genitals to cleaning products for too long
  • Wash the skin around the vagina with water before and after sex
  • Change soiled nappies or incontinence pads promptly
  • Keep the genital area clean and dry.

Urinary incontinence is the unintentional passing of urine. It affects millions of people and has several different types including stress incontinence, urge incontinence, overflow incontinence and total incontinence.

The differing types all have slightly different causes, but all can lead to sometimes embarrassing symptoms that can disrupt an individual’s everyday life.

Some conditions like total incontinence can be caused by a tunnel-like hole that can form between the bladder and a nearby area (fistula), which may need further treatment. Due to this it is advised individuals seek medical advice if they struggle with incontinence.

An overactive bladder, sometimes referred to as an OAB, causes frequent and sudden urges to urinate. Difficult to control, OAB can also make individuals feel like they need to pass urine during the night, leading to debilitating symptoms.

The Mayo Clinic explains that some individuals are able to manage symptoms with simple lifestyle changes such as dietary changes, timed voiding and bladder-holding techniques using your pelvic floor muscles. However, if these initial efforts don’t help enough with your overactive bladder symptoms, additional treatments, such as medication, are available.

Similar to cystitis, interstitial cystitis is a condition that causes problems peeing. However, it is often poorly understood and individuals are left with intense pelvic pain and strong sudden urges to pee. In some cases there may be blood in the urine, which should be checked out urgently by a GP.

The exact cause of interstitial cystitis is not clear. However, there are several ideas about what might cause it. These include:

  • Damage to the bladder lining, which may mean pee can irritate the bladder and surrounding nerves
  • A problem with the pelvic floor muscles used to control peeing
  • Your immune system causing an inflammatory reaction.

Lastly, bladder cancer occurs when a growth of abnormal tissue develops in the lining of the bladder. About 10,000 people are diagnosed with bladder cancer every year, making it the 11th most common cancer in the UK.

The NHS explains that most cases of bladder cancer appear to be caused by exposure to harmful substances, which lead to abnormal changes in the bladder’s cells over many years. It is important to note that the most common sign of bladder cancer is blood in the urine, along with sudden urges to urinate.

If bladder cancer reaches an advanced stage and has spread, symptoms can include:

  • Pelvic pain
  • Bone pain
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Swelling of the legs.

Due to the similarities of symptoms with other conditions, individuals are encouraged to seek medical advice if they notice any of the above. Although it may not be cancer, the disease has a higher chance of being cured if treated in its early stages.

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