Skip to Content
Home > Wellness Resources > Health Library > Overactive Bladder
With overactive bladder, you have many strong,
sudden urges to urinate during the day and night. You can get these urges even
when you have only a little bit of urine in your bladder. You may not be able
to hold your urine until you get to the bathroom. This can lead to urine
Overactive bladder is very
common in older adults. Both men and women can have it, but it's more common in
Overactive bladder is a kind of
urge incontinence. But not everyone with overactive
bladder leaks urine.
Even without incontinence, overactive
bladder can make it hard to do the things you enjoy. The need to drop
everything and race to the bathroom can disrupt your life. And if you leak,
even if it's only a little bit, it can be embarrassing.
Overactive bladder can cause other problems too. Hurrying to the bathroom
can lead to falls and broken bones. Overactive bladder can also cause sleeping problems,
urinary tract infections.
are too shy to talk about their bladder problems. But overactive bladder can
get better with treatment. Don't be afraid to talk with your doctor about how
to control your overactive bladder.
Overactive bladder is caused by an
overactive muscle in the bladder that pushes urine out. There are many things
that can make this muscle overactive. It can be caused by a bladder infection,
stress, or another medical problem. Some brain problems, such as
Parkinson's disease or a
stroke, can also lead to overactive bladder. But in
many cases, doctors don't know what causes it.
Some medicines can
cause overactive bladder. Talk with your doctor about the medicines you're
taking to find out if they could affect your bladder. But don't stop taking
your medicine without talking to your doctor first.
The main symptoms of
overactive bladder are:
You may have some or all of these symptoms.
Your doctor will do a physical exam. He or she will ask what kinds of
fluids you drink and how much. Your doctor will also want to know how often you
urinate, how much, and if you leak. It may help to write down these things in a bladder diary(What is a PDF document?) for
3 or 4 days before you see your doctor.
Your doctor probably will
also do a few tests, such as:
You may have more tests if your doctor thinks your symptoms
could be caused by other problems, such as
The first step in treatment will be to try
some things at home, such as urinating at scheduled times.
This is called bladder retraining.
You can also do special exercises called
Kegels to make your pelvic muscles stronger. These
muscles control the flow of urine. Doing these exercises can improve some
bladder problems. It may help to work with a
physical therapist who has special training in pelvic
There are other changes you can make that can
If your symptoms really bother you or affect your quality of life, your doctor may suggest that you try medicine along with bladder training and exercises. These medicines include:
For severe overactive bladder or severe urge incontinence that hasn't been controlled by exercises or medicine, treatments include:
Acupuncture may help with overactive bladder. It has been shown to work as well as medicine for some women.footnote 1
Hartmann KE, et al. (2009). Treatment of Overactive Bladder in Women. Evidence Report/Technology Assessment No. 187 (AHRQ Publication No. 09-E017). Available online: http://www.ahrq.gov/clinic/tp/bladdertp.htm.
Other Works Consulted
Gormley EA, et al. (2014). Diagnosis and Treatment of Overactive Bladder (Non-Neurogenic) in Adults: AUA/SUFU Guideline. Linthicum, MD: American Urological Association. http://www.auanet.org/common/pdf/education/clinical-guidance/Overactive-Bladder.pdf. Accessed January 22, 2015.
Naumann M, et al. (2008). Assessment: Botulinum neurotoxin in the treatment of autonomic disorders and pain (an evidence-based review): Report of the Therapeutics and Technology Assessment Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology. Neurology, 70(19): 1707–1714.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerAvery L. Seifert, MD - Urology
Current as ofNovember 20, 2015
Current as of:
November 20, 2015
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Avery L. Seifert, MD - Urology
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2016 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.