What Your Overactive Bladder Is Trying to Tell You

May 7th 2016

Individuals with an overactive bladder must learn to detect the signs and symptoms of the condition to continue living a healthy, uninterrupted lifestyle. Patients must tune in to the signs and symptoms and take preventative and proactive measures to treat the condition to reduce the worry and anxiety that often accompanies an overactive bladder.

Description of Condition

An overactive bladder occurs when the bladder muscles involuntarily contract at inappropriate times more frequently. The contractions and urge to urinate send signals to the brain suddenly, yet many people cannot make it to the bathroom in time to control leaking urine, which is often termed urge incontinence. Many people experience anxiety and worry with the uncertainty of when the urge to urinate will occur.


In addition to urge incontinence, an overactive bladder can also be linked to existing health conditions, such as pregnancy, neurological diseases, nerve damage caused by disease, injury or surgery, and inflammation of the prostate. Side effects from medications such as drugs with caffeine and diuretics may cause people to experience an overactive bladder as well as urinary tract infections and bladder irritation. More serious causes may include bladder cancer or tumors and abnormalities in the bladder.


Individuals with an overactive bladder often have difficulty controlling a sudden urge to urinate and experience involuntary loss of urine immediately after an urge is indicated by the brain. Frequent urination of eight or more times in 24 hours is also a symptom of an overactive bladder. People often awaken several times during the night to urinate. An overactive bladder can disrupt people's daily life and cause embarrassment, anxiety and an inability to complete tasks in a timely manner due to interruptions brought on by the need to urinate frequently.


Treatment for an overactive bladder often includes a combination of preventative measures and exercises. Patients can begin by training the bladder with scheduled voiding. Individuals can schedule bathroom trips and control the urge by waiting a few minutes when the urge arises and then gradually increasing the time between bathroom trips to train the bladder. Pelvic floor exercises may also help reduce the symptoms of an overactive bladder. Kegel exercises require individuals to tighten, hold and relax muscles that start and stop the flow of urination.

An avoidance of caffeine or fluids before activities or bed can also help to reduce the symptoms of an overactive bladder. In some cases, physicians prescribe anticholinergic drugs to block the nerve signals that produce bladder muscle contractions. Medications may decrease the urge to urinate and increase the capacity of urine the bladder can hold.


People who live with an overactive bladder experience the urge to urinate suddenly and often. This condition can be frustrating, especially for the one in six adults over the age of 40 who typically experience symptoms of an overactive bladder. Knowing the causes, symptoms and signs of an overactive bladder helps to determine the best course of treatment.

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