Overactive Bladder: What you need to know

Overactive bladder is a health condition that is caused by a sudden and involuntary contraction of the muscle in urinary bladder’s wall. This disease causes an abrupt and continuous need to urinate even though the bladder only contains a small amount of urine.

This condition is also known as urge incontinence which is a form of urinary incontinence. In urinary incontinence, involuntary loss of urine takes place. There are other forms of urinary incontinence which include stress incontinence, a condition known to be caused by weak structures of the bladder thereby producing leaks.

In general, overactive bladder occurs frequently in women than men. When age is discussed, the condition is more common in adults although it can occur at any age. In the United States, one in every 11 adults is diagnosed with this condition. Although it occurs in adults more often, overactive bladder should never be linked to aging.


Muscle spasms in the bladder produces an urge to urinate, this is the reason why the condition is termed as urge incontinence. The primary problem is rooted in the nerves and bladder muscles. One of the major muscles in the bladder is the detrusor muscles. The contraction of this structure is important in the processes involved during urination. It is the nervous system that regulates the contraction and relaxation of this muscle.

When the detrusor muscle malfunctions, then overactive bladder take place. The following may cause abnormalities in the structures that coordinate urination:

  1. Injury of the spinal cord
  2. Stroke
  3. Parkinson’s disease
  4. Dementia
  5. Multiple sclerosis
  6. Diabetic neuropathy

In addition, when the nervous system is normal but overactive bladder occurs then one of the following conditions might be causing the condition:

  1. UTI
  2. Bladder stones
  3. Tumor of the bladder

Risk Factors of Overactive Bladder

  1. Age. About 20% of the population who are 70 years old and above are reported to have this condition.
  2. Stroke
  3. Injuries of the spinal cord
  4. Diabetes mellitus
  5. Multiple pregnancies
  6. Surgery of the prostate gland in males
  7. Dementia
  8. Parkinson’s disease

Signs and Symptoms

  1. Frequent urination
  2. String urge to urinate all the time
  3. Urinating in the middle of the night

How to diagnose the condition?

  1. Medical history
  2. Assessment of the symptoms of overactive bladder (general physical exam)
  3. Pelvic examination
  4. Urinalysis – to assess signs of infection
  5. Urine cytology – use to detect presence of tumors
  6. Ultrasonography – measures post-void residue and detects any obstruction in the flow of the urine

Image courtesy of diyhealth.com

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