Overactive bladder, also known as OAB or urge incontinence, occurs when a person experiences a sudden and frequent urge to urinate that may also be accompanied by urine leakage. This happens because the bladder muscles contract at inappropriate times, regardless of how much urine has collected in the bladder. It can happen to anyone at any age, although it is most common in women and the elderly.
Causes of Overactive Bladder
An overactive bladder may be caused by various factors. In men, OAB may result from benign prostatic hyperplasia also known as BPH, or bladder obstruction due to an enlarged prostate. Underlying causes of OAB may include:
- Drug side effects
- Nerve damage
- Neurological disease or stroke
The following bladder problems may also be the cause of an overactive bladder:
- Urinary tract infection
- Bladder stones
In some cases, a cause for OAB cannot be found.
Diagnosis of Overactive Bladder
In addition to a physical exam, tests for OAB may include:
- Urinary stress test
A post-void residual (PVR) test may also be performed to evaluate bladder function.
Treatment of Overactive Bladder
Treatment for overactive bladder depends on the severity of symptoms, the underlying cause, and the patient's and doctor's preferences. Treatment options may include:
- Bladder retraining
- Kegel exercises
Patients who are severely affected by their overactive bladder and incontinence may require surgery to increase bladder storage and decrease pressure in the bladder. Augmentation cystoplasty, where a segment of the bowel is added to the bladder to increase the bladder size and allow it to store more urine, is the surgery most often performed for this condition.
An overactive bladder can be a chronic problem. While it can be treated, patients should continue to see their physicians to evaluate progress and monitor for possible complications.