Overactive bladder

Overactive bladder is a problem with bladder-storage function that causes a sudden urge to urinate. The urge may be difficult to stop, and overactive bladder may lead to the involuntary loss of urine (incontinence).

If you have an overactive bladder, you may feel embarrassed, isolate yourself, or limit your work and social life. The good news is that a brief evaluation can determine whether there's a specific cause for your overactive bladder symptoms.

Management of overactive bladder often begins with behavioral strategies, such as fluid schedules, timed voiding and bladder-holding techniques using your pelvic floor. If these initial efforts don't help enough with your overactive bladder symptoms, second line and third line treatments are available.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications Prevention

With an overactive bladder, you may:

  • Feel a sudden urge to urinate that's difficult to control
  • Experience urge incontinence — the involuntary loss of urine immediately following an urgent need to urinate
  • Urinate frequently, usually eight or more times in 24 hours
  • Awaken two or more times in the night to urinate (nocturia)

Although you may be able to get to the toilet in time when you sense an urge to urinate, unexpected frequent urination and nighttime urination can disrupt your life.

When to see a doctor

Although it's common among older adults, overactive bladder isn't a normal part of aging. If your symptoms distress you, consider behavior strategies and management options. Treatments are available that might help you.

Discussing such a private matter with your doctor might not be easy, but it's worthwhile to take that risk — especially if your symptoms disrupt your work schedule, social interactions and everyday activities.

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