Overactive Bladder FAQ's

Credit: Tufts Medical Center

Overactive bladder (OAB) is a common problem that often causes difficulties in day-to-day life. This condition can lend to many inconvenient trips to the bathroom, and possible urine leakage. Here are some answers to some of the most common OAB questions with input from The Division of Urogynecology at Tufts Medical Center in Boston.

What is Overactive Bladder?

Overactive bladder (OAB) is a condition which involves a sudden urge to urinate, sometimes followed by leaking. It is common to feel a frequent urge to urinate even when your bladder is empty. OAB causes your bladder to be overactive and contract too often. These bladder spasms cause you to feel like you need to urinate often and urgently, even if your bladder isn’t completely full.

Is this a common condition?

OAB is a common condition that affects about 15% of women across all ages, but risk increases with age. OAB can affect men as well, though it is less common.

How often is too often to be urinating?

Typically, women should urinate around eight times per day and one time at night. Urinating more than eight times per day is considered frequent urination. Keeping a bladder diary may help you learn more about your bladder symptoms.

What causes OAB?

Overactive bladder symptoms are caused by the bladder muscle contracting prematurely to empty out urine when the bladder is not actually full, sometimes without warning. OAB can be caused by a possible infection, bladder stones, or other growths – which your physician will assess. OAB can also be caused by conditions affecting the nervous system.

However, for many of those affected by the condition, the exact cause of OAB may not be clear, but there are many possible treatments to help manage this condition.

Is it normal to get up at night to urinate?

Urination about once a night is considered typical. Urination that occurs more than once a night is called nocturia and may be a symptom of OAB.

Is it normal to urinate more frequently with age?

Yes, it is normal to urinate more frequently as you get older because your bladder tolerates less volume. OAB risk increases with age and is more common in older individuals.

Is medication an option?

Dietary changes are often the first step in managing the symptoms of OAB.  Bladder training, pelvic floor therapy and medications are also helpful. OAB medicines help your bladder hold urine for longer periods of time and there are many different medication options available.

If medications and behavioral modifications do not work, Botox in the bladder or nerve stimulation are also possible management options. Talk to your doctor to determine which treatment is the right course of action for you.

How do I talk to my doctor about OAB if I’m embarrassed?

Being embarrassed is a common reaction to OAB, but you should feel comfortable discussing this condition and its symptoms with your doctor. It is a very common condition and there are many options to relieve your symptoms. Your physician can help.

If you experience symptoms of OAB, Tufts Medical Center’s Division of Urogynecology and Pelvic Reconstructive Surgery in downtown Boston specializes in treatment plans for this condition. Our all-female staff, comprised of fellowship-trained and board-certified urogynecologists, wants you to know that you have safe and effective treatment options. Our physicians see patients in Boston, Norfolk, Braintree and Wellesley.

Posted February 2018 The above content is provided for educational purposes by Tufts Medical Center.It is free for educational use.For information about your own health, contact your physician.

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