Overactive bladder

Overactive bladder

What is overactive bladder?

An overactive bladder (OAB) causes a sudden urge to urinate. It can also trigger involuntary loss of urine, known as incontinence. Women are more often affected than men.

It can be difficult to manage symptoms because an overactive bladder may be unpredictable. This can cause some people with the condition to limit their social activities, which can affect the quality of your life. It can also trigger isolation and emotional distress.

But there are several treatments available that can help you manage your symptoms. Treating overactive bladder can also improve your outlook and reduce incidence of incontinence.

Overactive bladder symptoms

Experiencing occasional incontinence doesn’t mean you have an overactive bladder. Urine leakage can happen for other reasons, like if you’re laughing too hard. You may also experience loss of urine if you’ve been fighting the urge to urinate for an extended period of time.

An overactive bladder is determined by the frequency and urgency of urination. Symptoms include:

  • an urgent and uncontrollable need to urinate
  • frequent involuntary loss of urine
  • frequent urination (more than eight times in a 24-hour period)
  • waking up more than once a night to use the bathroom

Symptoms of overactive bladder can change. They may be different from person to person, too, which can make identifying the issue difficult without a doctor’s help. Knowing the symptoms of overactive bladder can help you find better treatments faster.

Overactive bladder treatment

Several treatments are available to help you manage symptoms of OAB. These can include:

Pelvic floor physical therapy

There are physical therapists who specialize in the muscles of the pelvis. Through targeted muscle exercises and strengthening, they can help manage a variety of urinary problems, including urgency, frequency, and nighttime symptoms.


Medicines that treat overactive bladder focus on two effects: relieving symptoms and reducing episodes of urge and incontinence. These medicines include tolterodine (Detrol, Detrol LA), trospium (Sanctura), and mirabegron (Myrbetriq).

OAB medications may cause some side effects, including dry eyes, dry mouth, and constipation.


Small doses of Botox can temporarily paralyze or weaken bladder muscles. This stops them from contracting too often, which can reduce symptoms of overactive bladder. The effects of the injection typically last six to eight months, so you may need repeated treatments.

Nerve stimulation

This procedure changes the electrical signal of the nerves that carry impulses to the bladder. The electrical stimulation can be performed using a small wire inserted into the low back or a small needle inserted through the skin of the lower leg.

Though it hasn’t been clearly established, some researchTrusted Source has shown this can relieve the frequency and urgency of an overactive bladder.


Your doctor may suggest surgery to increase your bladder’s capacity if your symptoms don’t improve with medication, nerve stimulation, or other therapies.

Overactive bladder causes

Your kidneys produce urine and that urine travels to your bladder. Then, your brain sends signals that tell your body to urinate. Your pelvic floor muscles relax and allow urine to exit your body.

An overactive bladder causes your bladder muscles to contract involuntarily. This gives the sensation of needing to urinate frequently even if your bladder isn’t full.

Different conditions and factors can cause symptoms of OAB:

  • drinking too much fluid
  • taking medications that increase urine production
  • urinary tract infections
  • consumption of caffeine, alcohol, or other bladder irritants
  • failure to completely empty the bladder
  • bladder abnormalities, such as bladder stones

The exact case of an overactive bladder is unknown. The risk of developing this condition increases with age. But an overactive bladder isn’t a normal part of aging, so you shouldn’t ignore symptoms. Seeing your doctor can help make sure you get the correct diagnosis.

Bladder function relies on good urinary tract health. The causes of overactive bladder are often the result of issues in your urinary tract.

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