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With overactive bladder, you have many strong, sudden urges to urinate during the day and night. You can get these urges even when you have only a little bit of urine in your bladder. You may not be able to hold your urine until you get to the toilet. This can lead to urine leakage, called urgency incontinence. This is different than stress incontinence, which is usually caused by things like coughing or exercising.
Even without incontinence, overactive bladder can make it hard to do the things you enjoy. The need to drop everything and race to the toilet can disrupt your life. And if you leak, even if it's only a little bit, it can be embarrassing.
Overactive bladder can cause other problems too. Hurrying to the toilet can lead to falls and broken bones. Overactive bladder can also cause sleeping problems, depression, and urinary tract infections.
Many people are too shy to talk about their bladder problems. But overactive bladder can get better with treatment. Don't be afraid to talk with your doctor about how to control your overactive bladder.
The exact cause of overactive bladder is not well understood. It is known that some medicines can cause the symptoms of overactive bladder like frequency (needing to urinate often) or urgency. Talk with your doctor about the medicines you're taking to find out if they could affect your bladder. But don't stop taking your medicine without talking to your doctor first.
The main symptoms of overactive bladder are:
You may have some or all of these symptoms.
Your doctor will ask you about your past health as well as your current health. You may be asked to complete some questionnaires to track your symptoms and how much they bother you. You may have a physical exam, such as a pelvic exam (female) or prostate exam (male).
You'll be asked what kinds of fluids you drink and how much. Your doctor will also want to know how often you urinate, how much, and if you leak. It may help to write down these things in a bladder diary for 3 or 4 days before you see your doctor.
You'll also be asked about any medicines you take.
Your doctor will check a sample of your urine. Depending on the results, or if your doctor thinks that your problem may have more than one cause, you may have more tests.
The first step in treatment will be to try some things at home.
Some medicines can cause this problem. Your doctor will check to see if any medicines you take might be causing your symptoms.
Sometimes medicines can help. This includes topical estrogen if thinning of vaginal tissue (atrophy) is a problem. Or medicine can help if an enlarged prostate is the problem.
If your symptoms really bother you or affect your quality of life, your doctor may suggest that you try medicine along with bladder training and exercises. These medicines include:
For severe overactive bladder or severe urge incontinence that hasn't been controlled by exercises or medicine, treatments include:
Adaptation Date: 12/14/2023
Adapted By: Alberta Health Services
Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services
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