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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

On Vacation With Incontinence

A shopping spree in Milan, a hike in Ecuador, an island-hopping cruise. On vacation, you can escape most everyday hassles -- except incontinence. At every turn, it's unfamiliar territory. If you have an accident, what can you do? "Everyone who has incontinence has developed some coping strategies," says Roger Dmochowski, MD, a urologist and director of the Vanderbilt Continence Center in Nashville. "They do what they need to do. It's amazing how good some people are at estimating their bladder's...

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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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