September 1, 2014
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Bladder (Overactive)

 Health Home >> Bladder (Overactive) >> Understanding overactive bladder 


What is overactive bladder (OAB)?

You've been invited to a friend's house for dinner and the first thing you do after arriving is ask where the bathroom is. You worry about taking long trips or getting stuck in traffic because a bathroom may not be nearby. If this sounds familiar, you're not alone!

If you have sudden intense urges to visit the bathroom in order to empty your bladder that are difficult to postpone, you may have overactive bladder (OAB). People with overactive bladder may also feel a need to empty their bladder very often (8 or more times per day), and may get up in the middle of the night to empty their bladder. Some people may even experience, on occasion, a little bit of urine leaking out as a result of the uncontrollable urge to urinate. Over 21% of adult Canadian women and about 15% of adult Canadian men are affected by overactive bladder.

What causes overactive bladder?

For most people with overactive bladder, the cause is that the detrusor muscle within the bladder wall contracts involuntarily even though your bladder may not be full. Normally, the detrusor muscle sends a message to your brain to tell you that your bladder is getting full. To empty the bladder, the detrusor muscle contracts and the bladder outlet, the sphincter, relaxes.

Why does the detrusor muscle contract involuntarily? There are different reasons for different people. It may be caused by changes in the nerves that make the detrusor muscle more sensitive, by changes in the way the brain interprets messages from the muscle, or by changes in the muscle itself. As well, there may be other unknown reasons for involuntary detrusor muscle contraction.

If you think you may have overactive bladder, complete the overactive bladder questionnaire and visit your doctor. You may feel a bit embarrassed, but you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by talking with your doctor. Your doctor sees people with this condition often, and can recommend several treatment options to help you. Use the Doctor Discussion Guide to help prepare for talking with your doctor.


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