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Overactive Bladder

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Aug 31, 2022.

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 about your symptoms, medical history, and current medicines. He or she will examine your pelvic area and abdomen to look for problems that may be causing your symptoms. You may need blood and imaging tests to help find the cause of your symptoms. You may be asked to keep a log of your urination patterns. Write down the number of times you urinate over 24 hours, the amount, and if you have urine leakage.

How is overactive bladder managed?

  • 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.
  • Limit liquids as directed. This may help decrease the amount you urinate. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. Avoid liquids several hours before you go to sleep. 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 or her 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.

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 do not help you control your bladder.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

When should I call my doctor?

  • 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.