Key Points about an Overactive Bladder

  • An overactive bladder is marked by an intense, frequent need to urinate that is hard to control.
  • Symptoms can be caused by certain medications, behavioral factors, or underlying medical conditions.
  • Treatments for an overactive bladder range from behavioral modifications and medications, to surgical and nonsurgical procedures.

Overview

An overactive bladder can interfere with the activities of your daily life, causing embarrassment, anxiety and even impaired sleep. The main symptom of an overactive bladder is having an intense, frequent need to urinate that is hard to control.

Symptoms of an overactive bladder can result from a number of factors, from lifestyle habits to medications and existing illnesses. Treatment will vary depending upon the underlying cause of your overactive bladder. Your doctor may recommend behavioral methods for regulating symptoms, or may provide a range of prescription medications and procedures to alleviate your overactive bladder.

Overactive bladder causes

An overactive bladder is caused by involuntary contractions of the bladder muscles. These contractions occur even when there is little urine in the bladder.

There are many factors that can lead to an overactive bladder, such as:

  • Certain medications
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Neurological conditions
  • Bladder stones
  • Bladder tumors
  • An enlarged prostate
  • A high intake of alcohol or caffeine
  • Cognitive functioning that can decline in older age
  • Troubles emptying the bladder of all urine

Overactive bladder risk factors

You are more likely to experience an overactive bladder:

  • As you get older
  • If you have an enlarged prostate
  • If you have diabetes
  • If you are experiencing declining cognitive function

Overactive bladder symptoms

Symptoms of an overactive bladder may include:

  • Having frequent, sudden sensations of needing to urinate
  • Struggling to hold in urine when you need to go

Overactive bladder complications

An overactive bladder can interfere with your daily life, causing embarrassment, anxiety, sleep interruptions, and emotional stress.

Overactive bladder prevention

You can reduce your risk of developing an overactive bladder by:

  • Losing weight if you are overweight
  • Limiting your intake of alcohol and caffeine
  • Not smoking tobacco
  • Staying physically active on a regular basis
  • Practicing Kegel exercises

Overactive bladder diagnosis

When diagnosing an overactive bladder, your doctor will look for any underlying causes. Your doctor may:

  • Review your medical history
  • Perform a physical examination
  • Give a urine test to look for any infections
  • Conduct a neurological evaluation

Your doctor may also evaluate your bladder function by measuring:

  • Pressure in the bladder
  • The amount of fluid left in the bladder after urinating
  • The flow rate of urine as it exits the body

Overactive bladder treatment

There are many treatment options for an overactive bladder, ranging from behavioral modifications and medications, to surgical and nonsurgical procedures.

The following behavioral measures can help control symptoms of an overactive bladder:

  • Establishing a bathroom schedule to train your body to urinate at regular intervals each day
  • Losing weight if you are overweight
  • Practicing Kegel exercises, which can strengthen muscles in the pelvic floor, allowing you to better involuntary contractions of the bladder
  • Wearing underwear or pads that absorb liquids in the case of unintentional urination

When symptoms do not respond to such regulating practices, your doctor may also recommend:

  • Prescription medications that treat overactive bladder symptoms
  • Botox injections into the bladder
  • A procedure that stimulates the nerves responsible for bladder regulation
  • A surgical procedure that makes your bladder larger
  • Surgical removal of the bladder

When to seek care

Set up an appointment with your doctor if your overactive bladder is causing embarrassment or other disruption to your daily life.

Next Steps

Often, patients dealing with an overactive bladder benefit from trying and combining multiple remedies. Talk to your doctor to establish a comprehensive plan to manage your symptoms.