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Diagnosing Overactive Bladder

Even though urinary leakage affects some 12 million adults in the U.S., it can be an embarrassing subject to discuss, even with your doctor. That’s why overactive bladder, also known as OAB or urge incontinence, is often called the "hidden condition."

You might believe, as many people do, that overactive bladder is just an unpleasant but inescapable part of getting older. Actually it isn’t -- and there is something you can do. Seeing your doctor and having tests for overactive bladder can help you get treatment, get back into your old routine, and feel more like yourself again.

Recommended Related to Urinary Incontinence/OAB

Oops, I Leaked: Tales of Incontinence

"I'm more sensitive now to women when they say they've 'gotta go,'" says 51-year-old professional speaker, author, and prostate cancer survivor Chuck Gallagher. The Greenville, S.C., resident experienced mild incontinence for six weeks following his laparoscopic surgery. "Guys don't want to talk about it; it's embarrassing. They think they have to suck it up and deal with it." And men aren't the only ones who don't want to talk about their little leaks or mild incontinence. According to the National...

Read the Oops, I Leaked: Tales of Incontinence article > >

How Does a Doctor Diagnose Overactive Bladder?

To get a diagnosis of overactive bladder, your doctor starts with a complete health history to learn about other urinary conditions you’ve had in the past, and when the problem started. Your doctor will examine you, ask questions, and perform tests.

Questions your doctor may ask about your OAB include:

  • How often do you urinate?
  • How often do you leak urine, and how severely?
  • Do you feel any pain or discomfort while urinating?
  • For how long has the urge or urinary incontinence been occurring?
  • What medications are you taking?
  • Have you had any recent surgery or illnesses?

Keeping an OAB diary at home can help you answer these questions and help with an overactive bladder diagnosis. Each day, write down how much you drink, when you urinate, how much you urinate each time, and whether you ever feel an urgent need to go.

Your doctor will then examine your abdomen, pelvis, genitals, and rectum. You might also have a neurological exam to look for problems in your nervous system that could affect your ability to urinate.

What Are the Tests for Overactive Bladder?

There are a number of tests for overactive bladder, depending on your health history and symptoms. For these tests, you’ll likely see a urologist (a doctor who is trained to treat urinary disorders). If you’re a woman, you can also visit a urogynecologist.

Tests for overactive bladder include:

Urinalysis. Taking a urine sample allows your doctor to check for conditions that can cause overactive bladder. A urinalysis looks for the presence of these substances in the urine:

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