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Overactive Bladder

Normally, when you have a full bladder, you can control when you urinate by contracting a particular muscle in the bladder. In the case of an overactive bladder, the muscles receive the wrong nerve messages and contract on their own, causing you to feel like you have to urinate right away or, in some cases, causing you to leak urine.

If you suffer from an overactive bladder, you may:

  • Need to urinate eight or more times a day
  • Get up at least twice a night to urinate
  • Leak urine occasionally
  • Have the sudden urge to urinate

Causes of an overactive bladder

  • Childbirth: The urinary tract can be damaged when a woman gives birth, but this condition is usually temporary and can be helped by pelvic floor/Kegel exercises.
  • Neurological diseases such as Parkinson's disease, stroke, multiple sclerosis, or diabetes
  • Recent pelvic surgery
  • Aging
  • Certain prescription medications
  • Stress

Testing for an overactive bladder

  • First, your doctor will take your medical history and ask about your symptoms. You may be asked to keep a bladder diary (a record of how much liquid you drink, how often you urinate, and any times you may have leakage).
  • A urinalysis will be able to tell if you have a urinary tract infection or bladder stones.
  • Urodynamics testing uses various tests to look at your urinary tract in more detail.

Treating an overactive bladder

Your physician may suggest one or more options to treat an overactive bladder:

  • Bladder training, or urinating according to a timetable (instead of according to urge)
  • Kegel exercises to strengthen pelvic muscles
  • Dietary changes to avoid foods that trigger your symptoms
  • Medications, including hormone replacement therapy and anticholinergics (which prevent bladder spasms)
  • A pessary, a ring inserted into the vagina that helps support the bladder and uterus
  • Sacral nerve stimulation therapy, an electrical device to stimulate nerves, affecting signals to the bladder
  • Acupuncture, yoga and other alternative treatments
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