Obstetrics and Gynecology

Overactive Bladder

Overactive bladder is a common condition in which a woman feels a sudden and frequent urge to urinate. The urge may be difficult to control and often results in the involuntary loss of urine, a condition known as incontinence.

The fear of embarrassment caused by an overactive bladder can severely impact a woman's quality of life including work, social life, sleep patterns and relationships.

Overactive bladder should not be considered a normal part of aging. Treatment is available to help patients resume their normal routine.

What are the symptoms of overactive bladder?

Symptoms may include:

What causes overactive bladder?

Overactive bladder is typically caused by involuntary contractions of the bladder muscle (detrusor muscle). Sudden bladder contractions may be caused by many factors, or a combination of factors, including:

  • Infections
  • Abnormalities of the nervous system or diseases that interfere with communication between the bladder and the brain, sending signals to the brain and bladder to empty at the wrong time
  • Medication side effects
  • Diet and lifestyle
  • Bladder and kidney stones

How is overactive bladder diagnosed?

Diagnosis starts with a detailed medical history and thorough physical exam, including a pelvic exam. You may also be asked to keep a voiding diary to record when you have the urge to urinate, leakage amount, what you were doing at the time, fluids consumed, and other details.

How is overactive bladder treated?

Treatment depends on the cause of the overactive bladder. Treatment strategies include:

  • Addressing the underlying irritants. Such as infections, bladder stones, and medication side effects that may be causing the overactive bladder symptoms
  • Lifestyle changes. Including changes in diet and fluid intake, weight loss, avoidance of caffeine and alcohol, and smoking
  • Bladder training. To help increase bladder capacity and the bladder's ability to hold urine, by increasing the amount of time between voiding
  • Pelvic floor exercises. To strengthen muscles
  • Medications. To relax the bladder muscle and reduce involuntary contractions.
  • Sacral nerve stimulation. Sends mild electrical pulses to the sacral nerve, the nerve that influences bladder control muscles