What Causes an Overactive Bladder and How Is It Treated?

May 7th 2016

Having an overactive bladder is a common condition and not something to feel shameful about; maintaining a healthy weight, strengthening your pelvic floor muscles and ensuring you empty your bladder completely every time you urinate are some of the best self-help options. Talking to a medical professional to see what other ways you can relieve the symptoms is also always a good idea.


Normal bladders start to have muscle contractions as they become full; this lets you know when you need to relieve yourself. Most people then use conscious control of their muscles to urinate in an appropriate place. An overactive bladder occurs when the muscles in the bladder contract involuntarily when the level of urine is very low. This causes the sensation of an urgent need to urinate, and if this is ignored, the involuntary systems may then produce urine inappropriately.


Specific causes of an overactive bladder are often hard to pin down. Causes range from neurological disorders, such as strokes and multiple sclerosis, to chronic physical diseases, such as diabetes. Abnormalities in the bladder, such as bladder stones or growths and any other factors that obstruct bladder outflow including an enlarged prostate and constipation, can also cause symptoms. Declining cognitive function due to aging may make it more difficult for your bladder to understand the signals it receives from your brain, and this may lead to a feedback loop that can also be an issue.

Management Techniques

Kegel exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles that can help you stop involuntary contractions in the bladder. Learn how to do Kegel exercises correctly from a medical professional or other reputable source. It can take up to two months for any noticeable difference in your symptoms to show with these techniques. Being overweight exacerbates bladder issues, so keeping to a healthy weight can help. Weight loss also tends to improve any associated stress urinary incontinence.

Keeping to a schedule when urinating rather than waiting until you feel the urge to urinate and pausing after urination before completely emptying the bladder again can help to control feedback symptoms and ensure you are going frequently enough. You can also use a catheter periodically to empty your bladder completely if you cannot do this naturally. However, talk to a medical professional first.

Medical Assistance

Your doctor may also prescribe a relaxant for your bladder such as tolterodine, oxybutynin or mirabegron. However, these can cause dehydration, and drinking extra fluids to relieve this often makes bladder issues worse.

There are also surgical options for treatment of an overactive bladder. The simplest of these focuses on regulating nerve impulses to prevent false signals. The device acts in a similar way to a pacemaker in a heart. It regulates the signal with an electric pulse from a small battery.


Overactive bladder is a very common condition, but many people find it embarrassing and do not seek treatment. Knowing why it occurs and what you can do to treat it may help overcome some of that reluctance to enable you to get appropriate help.

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