Overactive Bladder

Overactive bladder (OAB) is often described as the need to urinate frequently or the sudden urge to urinate that you can’t control. You may also worry that you will not be able to get to a bathroom in time and may even leak urine after feeling this urge. Having to wake from sleep to go to the bathroom during the night may be another symptom of OAB.

Causes of OAB

OAB can happen when the nerve signals between your bladder and brain tell your bladder to empty even when it isn’t full. OAB can also happen when your bladder muscles are too active. Then your bladder muscles “contract” to pass urine before your bladder is full, and that causes a sudden, strong need to urinate.

As you grow older, the risk for OAB symptoms increases. Both men and women are at risk for OAB. Also, people with neurological diseases, such as stroke and multiple sclerosis (MS), have a high risk of OAB. Eating a diet that is rich in "bladder irritating" food and drinks (such as caffeine, alcohol and highly spiced foods) can increase some people's OAB symptoms.


There are several symptoms of OAB:

  • Sudden and strong urges to urinate
  • Frequent urination
  • Waking up at night to urinate
  • Uncontrollable leakage of urine
  • Sensation of not emptying your bladder fully


OAB is typically diagnosed through a detailed history and review of symptoms. You may be asked to keep a voiding diary to track the amount and frequency of urination; a detailed urinary symptom score sheet will be given to you to complete.

Additional testing may be needed including:

  • Urine analysis / Urine culture
  • Bladder scan for post void residual (PVR) volume
  • Voiding diary
  • Blood tests
  • Ultrasound or CT scan
  • Urodynamics (UDS)
  • Cystoscopy


Your doctor may recommend treating your OAB with any number of options including:

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