Overactive bladder (OAB)

What is overactive bladder?

Overactive bladder (OAB) is a common bladder problem. Symptoms of overactive bladder include:

  • Urinating frequently: eight or more times per day or two or more times per night
  • Sudden, strong urges to urinate immediately
  • Leaking urine after a sudden, strong urge to urinate

Your everyday routine could be contributing to these spasms without you even knowing it. Foods that are known bladder irritants (such as caffeine and carbonation), medicines (such as diuretics), bladder infections, extra weight pushing on your bladder, and arthritis are all conditions that can affect your everyday voiding schedule.

OAB treatments

Many people believe that OAB symptoms are just a fact of life after certain age and therefore do not mention it to their physician. OAB, however, can affect anyone at any age. The good news is that you don’t have to put up with these symptoms. OAB is a treatable medical condition that you and your physician can work through. Everyday choices and changes to your routine can help you manage your overactive bladder:

  • Watch your fluid intake. Drinking too much or too little water can affect your bladder symptoms. Most people should drink at least six eight-ounce cups of fluid every day—with half of those cups being water.
  • Constipation can also affect your OAB symptoms. Talk with your physician before you make any significant changes to your eating or drinking schedule.
  • Work to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles (PFMs). The pelvic floor is a series of muscles that help you to hold urine in your bladder. Over time, age and childbirth can weaken these muscles. Your pelvic floor muscles help stop the flow of urine. Work to squeeze and hold them and then release them for an equal amount of time. When you do have the urge to urinate, squeeze to try and delay urination for at least a few minutes.
  • Make dietary changes. There are some foods that irritate your bladder and can exacerbate the symptoms of OAB. Caffeine, citrus fruits and juices, artificial sweeteners, tomato-based foods, sodas, alcohol, and spicy foods all have the ability to irritate your bladder and force you to urinate more frequently.

There are two types of medications that treat OAB— antimuscarinics or beta-agonists. These medicines effectively treat the symptoms of OAB by helping to calm the bladder muscle and reduce spasms. You and your physician can discuss any more invasive procedures if lifestyle changes and medicines are not working for you.

The most important thing to remember is that OAB does not have to run your life.  If you are experiencing symptoms of OAB talk with your physician.

Last reviewed: 
June 2017

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