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Overactive Bladder


What is overactive bladder?

Overactive bladder is a sudden urge to urinate that is difficult for you to control. It occurs when the muscles of the bladder contract (tighten) more than normal. This causes a frequent or sudden need to urinate. You usually have to urinate more than 8 times in 24 hours. You may need to get up more than once in the middle of the night to urinate. You may also leak urine before you are able to make it to the bathroom.

What increases my risk for overactive bladder?

Your risk for overactive bladder increases as you get older. Previous vaginal birth, chronic constipation, and diabetes increase your risk. Obesity, nerve injury, stroke, and spinal cord problems also increase your risk.

How is overactive bladder diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask questions about your symptoms. He will also ask you about any medical conditions you have and the medicines you take. He may examine your pelvic area and abdomen to look for problems that may be causing your symptoms. You may need any of the following:

  • Blood and urine tests may be done to look for signs of infection or blood or glucose (sugar) in your urine.
  • You may be asked to keep a record about your urination patterns for a few days. Write down the number of times you urinate over 24 hours, the amount, and if you have urine leakage. Your healthcare provider may also want you to record the type and amount of liquids you drink.
  • An ultrasound of your bladder may be done. The amount of urine left in your bladder after you urinate will be measured.
  • A cystoscopy may show problems inside your bladder. A cystoscope is put into your bladder through your urethra. The urethra is the tube that urine flows through when you urinate. The cystoscope is a long tube with a lens and a light on the end.
  • Urodynamic testing may show how well your bladder works. A narrow tube is placed in your urethra and another is placed in your rectum. Ask for more information about this test.

How is overactive bladder managed?

  • Limit liquids as directed. Limit liquids to decrease the amount you urinate. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. You may need to avoid drinking liquids several hours before you go to sleep. Your healthcare provider may also recommend that you limit caffeine and alcohol.
  • Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight. Ask your healthcare provider how much you should weigh and about the best exercise plan for you. Extra weight puts pressure on your bladder and may make your symptoms worse. Ask him to help you create a weight loss plan if you are overweight.
  • Do pelvic muscle exercises often. Your pelvic muscles help you stop urinating. Squeeze these muscles tightly for 5 seconds, then relax for 5 seconds. Gradually work up to squeezing for 10 seconds. Do 3 sets of 15 repetitions a day, or as directed. This will help strengthen your pelvic muscles and improve bladder control.
  • Train your bladder. Go to the bathroom at set times, such as every 2 hours, even if you do not feel the urge to go. You can also try to hold your urine when you feel the urge to go. For example, hold your urine for 5 minutes when you feel the urge to go. As that becomes easier, hold your urine for 10 minutes. Work up to every 3 or 4 hours to help control your bladder.

How is overactive bladder treated?

The following treatments may be done if other methods are not working:

  • Medicines may be given to relax your bladder and decrease urination.
  • Sacral nerve stimulation sends electrical signals to your sacral nerve through a small device implanted under your skin. Your sacral nerve controls your bladder, sphincter, and pelvic floor muscles.
  • Surgery may be done if all other treatments cannot help you control your bladder.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • Your urine is pink, or you notice blood in your urine.
  • You have pain with urination.
  • You continue to have symptoms even after you take your medicine.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Overactive Bladder

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IBM Watson Micromedex

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Mayo Clinic Reference