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Incontinence & Overactive Bladder Health Center

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Overactive Bladder - Topic Overview

What is 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 leakage, called incontinence.

Overactive bladder is very common in older adults. Both men and women can have it, but it's more common in women.

Recommended Related to Urinary Incontinence/OAB

The Truth About Urine

Urine isn't something most people talk about. We barely give it more than a passing glance as it swirls out of sight down the toilet bowl. Yet changes in the urine -- its color, odor, and consistency -- can provide important clues about the status of your body. Your urine can reveal what you've been eating, how much you've been drinking, and what diseases you have. "Urine and urinalysis have, for hundreds of years, been one of the ways physicians have looked at health," says Tomas Griebling, MD,...

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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, depression, and urinary tract infections.

Many people 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.

What causes 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.

What are the symptoms?

The main symptoms of overactive bladder are:

  • An urgent need to urinate.
  • The need to urinate often.
  • Waking up to urinate 2 or more times a night.
  • The need to urinate even if you have just gone to the bathroom.
  • Taking many trips to the bathroom only to urinate just a little bit each time.
  • Leaking urine when you have the urge to urinate.

You may have some or all of these symptoms.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 01, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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