You may be struggling with urinary symptoms and think overactive bladder (OAB) is the cause. Or, your healthcare provider may have already told you that you have OAB. Either way, this site will give you the tools and information to help you understand and better manage your condition.
Watch a video about other people taking control of their OAB.
You may also want to access our OAB Interactive Patient Guide. This web-based tool will take you through the entire journey from understanding OAB to taking control and finding treatment.
Don't wait—keep reading and get the help you need.
Overactive Bladder (OAB) isn't a disease. It's the name given to a group of troubling urinary symptoms. The most common symptom of OAB is a sudden and unexpected urge to urinate that you can't control. In some people, this urge will result in urine leakage (incontinence). Frequent urination during the day and night is one more symptom of OAB.
What are the symptoms of OAB?
A strong, sudden urge to urinate, known as "urgency," is the most common symptom of OAB. You may be worried that you won't make it to the bathroom in time. You may or may not leak urine after feeling this urge.
If you live with OAB, you may also have:
- Urine leakage (incontinence) - You may leak urine after feeling a urge to go that doesn't give you enough time to make it to the bathroom. This kind of incontinence is called "urge urinary incontinence." (This is different from "stress urinary incontinence," or "SUI," when you leak urine while sneezing, laughing or other physical effort. You can learn more about SUI at www.UrologyHealth.org/SUI.)
- Frequent urination - You may need to go to the bathroom more than eight times a day. (The number of times a person urinates during the day varies from person to person, but many experts consider urinating more than eight times in 24 hours "frequent urination.")
- Waking up at night to urinate - Waking up more than once a night to urinate is another symptom of OAB.
What causes OAB?
OAB can happen when the nerve signals between your brain and your bladder tell your bladder to empty even when it isn't full. OAB can also occur when the muscles in your bladder are overactive and contract before your bladder is full. The result is a sudden, strong urge to urinate that you cannot control.
Who is at risk for OAB?
The risk for OAB symptoms increases as you grow older. But just because you are getting older doesn't mean your OAB symptoms can't respond to treatment.
Both men and women are at risk for OAB. Women who have gone through menopause (also called "change of life") and men who have had prostate problems seem to be at greater 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.
What should I do?
OAB can get in the way of your work, social life, exercise and sleep. But you don't have to allow OAB symptoms to limit your life—there are treatments available to help. If you think you have OAB, please see your healthcare professional.
Trifold brochure that describes OAB symptoms at a lower literacy level.
A fact sheet.
A comprehensive guide that includes all information in the pieces listed above.
You can order copies of these brochures and have them mailed to you at no cost using our online Patient Education Order Form.
These tools give you several ways to get a handle on the level and impact of your OAB symptoms. You can then easily share your results with your healthcare professional.
Think You Have Overactive Bladder? Quiz
Print this simple list of questions and answer them. You can use your completed questionnaire to start the conversation with your healthcare provider about your symptoms. The questions will help you and your healthcare provider assess which OAB symptoms you have and how much they are bothering you. The better your healthcare provider understands the level and impact of your symptoms, the better he or she can help you manage them.
Print our Bladder Diary to record how much liquid (coffee, water, soda, etc.) you drink, how often you go to the bathroom, and when you have urine leakage. This will help your healthcare professional know when and why your symptoms occur.
The Bladder Pal is a paperless bladder diary for people whose electronic devices run Apple or Android apps. This free app lets you keep track of how much you drink, how often you go to the bathroom, and any urine leakage. It also has a questionnaire called the AUA Symptom Score, which helps assess your urinary symptoms (especially those in men with prostate problems). To share your results with your healthcare professional, you can email them to yourself and print them out.
There are a number of treatments that can help manage OAB. Your healthcare professional may use one treatment alone or several at the same time. Treatment choices include:
- Limiting "bladder irritating" foods—Some people can reduce their symptoms by limiting "bladder irritating" food and drinks. Common irritants include coffee, tea, alcohol, soda, other fizzy drinks, citrus fruit and spicy foods. You can try taking all "bladder irritating" foods out of your diet and adding them back in one-by-one. Once you figure out which food and drink make your symptoms worse, you can avoid them.
- Bladder Diary—Tracking your trips to the bathroom for a few days can help you and your healthcare professional understand your symptoms better. A diary may help point out any pattern to your symptoms. For example, are your symptoms worse after eating or drinking specific foods? Are they worse when you don't drink enough liquids? See our Bladder Diary and Instructions.
- Double voiding may be helpful for people who have trouble fully emptying their bladders. After urinating, you wait a few seconds and then try again to empty your bladder.
- Timed urination and bladder retraining—Your healthcare professional may ask you to do exercises to decrease urgency and help you hold more urine in your bladder. These exercises may include following a regular schedule to urinate. Instead of urinating when you feel the urge, you will be asked to go to the bathroom at set times each day.
- "Quick flick" exercises of your pelvic floor muscles can help you relax your bladder muscle when it contracts.
When lifestyle changes don't give enough relief, your healthcare professional may prescribe drugs to help manage your symptoms. These drugs may be used alone or together with lifestyle changes.
Medications used to treat OAB work by relaxing the bladder muscle to help stop it from contracting at the wrong times. These drugs can be given by mouth or through the skin using a gel or adhesive patch. Common side effects of taking these drugs are dry mouth and eyes, constipation, and blurred vision. Your healthcare professional should follow you carefully to watch for changes in your symptoms and any side effects. To get the best results, your healthcare professional may need to try different doses or different medications.
Other Treatment Choices
If lifestyle changes and prescription drugs are not successful in managing your OAB symptoms, your healthcare professional should send you to a specialist in incontinence, such as a urologist. Other treatments and more testing that a specialist may suggest are discussed in A Patient's Guide to Overactive Bladder. You may also order this brochure to be mailed to you at no cost.
Speak to Your Healthcare Professional
If you have OAB symptoms, be sure to speak with your healthcare professional. You may be referred to a specialist in incontinence and OAB, such as a urologist. You can use our Find-A-Urologist tool to find a urologist in your area. Choose "incontinence" as a "special interest area" to find urologists who said they are interested in helping patients who leak urine or have OAB.