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Incontinence & Overactive Bladder Health Center

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Overactive Bladder in Children

Overactive bladder is a form of urinary incontinence, which is the involuntary release of urine. Children as well as adults can have an overactive bladder.

What Are the Signs of Overactive Bladder in Children?

A child with an overactive bladder will need to urinate frequently and, at times, the need may be urgent. He or she may not make it to the toilet before the urine begins to flow.

What Causes Overactive Bladder in Children?

Children with overactive bladders have a need to urinate more often than usual because their bladder muscles have uncontrollable spasms. The muscles surrounding the urethra -- the tube from the bladder that urine passes through -- can be affected. These muscles are meant to prevent urine from leaving the body, but they may be "overridden" if the bladder undergoes a strong contraction.

Urinary tract infections can cause a need to urinate as the urinary tract becomes inflamed and uncomfortable. Certain neurological conditions may cause these symptoms.

Another cause of overactive bladder is a condition called pollakiuria, or frequent daytime urination syndrome. Children who have pollakiuria urinate frequently. In some cases, they may urinate every five to 10 minutes or urinate between 10 and 30 times a day. This condition is most common among children aged 3 to 8 and is present only during waking hours. There are no other symptoms present. Doctors believe that pollakiuria is related to stress. Usually, the condition goes away after two to three weeks without requiring treatment.

Other causes of overactive bladder in children include:

  • consumption of caffeine, which increases urine output and can cause spasms in the bladder muscle
  • consumption of ingredients that a child may be allergic to
  • events that cause anxiety
  • infrequent urination (holding urine for too long a period of time)
  • small bladder capacity
  • structural abnormalities in the bladder or urethra
  • constipation

How Is Overactive Bladder Treated in Children?

In most cases, children outgrow the problem of an overactive bladder. For each year after the age of 5, the number of overactive bladder cases declines by 15%. The child may learn to respond in a more timely manner to the body's signals to urinate or bladder capacity may increase over time. In addition, overactive bladders can "settle down," often when stressful events or experiences have ended.

If the child does not outgrow the condition, treatments can include bladder training and medication. In bladder training, the child uses exercises to strengthen and coordinate the urethra and bladder muscles to control urination. Such exercises teach the child to prevent urinating when away from the toilet and to anticipate the urge to urinate. Additional techniques to help overactive bladder include:

  • avoiding caffeine or other ingredients that may encourage overactive bladder
  • using timed voiding, or urinating on a schedule -- for example, every two hours
  • adopting healthy urination habits, such as taking enough time to urinate and relaxing muscles during urination

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