What Are the Symptoms of an Overactive Bladder?

Do you constantly feel a sudden urge to urinate that’s difficult to control? Or, do you find yourself frequently needing to urinate throughout the day or night, possibly even experiencing an unintentional loss of urine? If so, you may be suffering from an overactive bladder. 

While you may be able to avoid urinary incontinence, there’s no denying that frequently and unexpectedly having to use the restroom can still disrupt your life in many ways. If you have an overactive bladder, you might be feeling self-conscious, uncomfortable, and limited in your daily activities

So, what are the symptoms of an overactive bladder? Continue reading to discover signs that you may have an overactive bladder, as well as treatment options that are available here at Urology Specialists of the Carolinas.

What is an Overactive Bladder?

Overactive bladder, also known as OAB, is a urinary condition that causes a frequent or sudden urge to urinate that is typically very difficult to control. For some, an overactive bladder develops gradually over time, and they just learn to live with the symptoms without getting treated. However, the symptoms of an overactive bladder can be extremely frustrating and life-changing for others.

Factors That Contribute to an Overactive Bladder

Once urine is produced, it travels to your bladder and your brain signals that it’s time to urinate. As a result, your pelvic floor muscles relax, allowing the urine to exit your body. However, an overactive bladder causes your muscles to contract involuntarily. This gives the sensation that your bladder is full even when it’s not. 

While both men and women can suffer from an overactive bladder, this condition most commonly occurs in women. This is due to changes in estrogen and weakened pelvic floor muscles after experiencing menopause, pregnancy, and menstruation. Other factors that can contribute to an overactive bladder include aging, weight gain, poor nutrition, trauma to the pelvis or abdomen region, and neurological diseases that affect nerve signals to the bladder.

What Are the Symptoms of an Overactive Bladder?

Experiencing occasional urinary incontinence or a sudden urge to urinate does not necessarily mean you have an overactive bladder. Instead, this condition is determined by the frequency and urgency of your urination patterns. Below are some of the most common signs and symptoms of an overactive bladder. 

1. Frequently Needing to Urinate

Everyone’s body is different, and the number of times someone should urinate throughout the day varies from person to person. For example, if you have a high fluid intake, you may need to go to the bathroom more often than someone who isn’t as hydrated. However, if you’re going more than eight times during the day, you may have an overactive bladder or another underlying problem. If you’re visiting the bathroom so frequently that it’s disrupting your life, this is a sign you should schedule an appointment with your urologist. 

2. Experiencing Urge Incontinence

In addition to frequent trips to the bathroom, another symptom of an overactive bladder is feeling an intense or sudden urge to urinate. Otherwise known as urge incontinence, this is the type of incontinence that makes you feel as if you have to go right this second, even if you felt fine just moments before. Unfortunately, this sudden urge to urinate can often be so unbearable and impossible to ignore that embarrassing leaks or accidents occur. If you’re regularly experiencing sudden, intense urges to urinate, this could be a sign that you have an overactive bladder.

Related: How to Treat Urinary Incontinence 

3. Waking up During the Night

Again, since everyone’s body is different, it might not be unusual for you to wake up during the middle of the night to urinate. However, if you’re getting up more than two or three times a night, you may be suffering from an overactive bladder. Waking up several times is very disruptive to your sleep cycle, preventing you from feeling fully rested. In addition to impacting your overall quality of life, experiencing disrupted sleep due to an overactive bladder can also be very frustrating. If you’re constantly getting up most nights of the week to urinate, there’s a good chance you may have an overactive bladder.

Overactive Bladder Treatment Options

Several treatment options are available to help you manage your overactive bladder symptoms. These include:

  • Pelvic Floor Exercises: Otherwise known as kegels, these pelvic floor exercises help strengthen your bladder muscles. They can be done anytime, even while at home or work!
  • Anticholinergic Medications: These medications block the chemical acetylcholine, which is responsible for telling your bladder to contract and release urine.
  • Beta-3 Adrenergic Medications: These medications relax the bladder, helping it hold more urine and decreasing the frequency of voiding.
  • Bladder Botox Treatment: Injecting small doses of Botox directly into bladder tissue can temporarily paralyze or weaken bladder muscles. This stops them from contracting too often, helping to control the bladder and reduce symptoms of an overactive bladder.
  • Nerve Stimulation: This procedure sends electrical pulses to your nerves, helping the brain and bladder communicate more efficiently and function properly. 

Treating an Overactive Bladder With a Urologist

From constantly needing to be near a bathroom to having embarrassing leaks or accidents, an overactive bladder can feel like it’s controlling your life. While an overactive bladder is nothing to be ashamed of, it shouldn’t be something you have to live with either.

We hope that reading this blog helped answer the question, “What are the symptoms of an overactive bladder?” If you’re experiencing any of these signs or symptoms, schedule an appointment to discuss treatment options available here at Urology Specialists of the Carolinas. Click the button below to find your nearest location and get one step closer to managing your overactive bladder once and for all. 

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This content was originally published in October 2015 and was refreshed in January 2022.