Overactive Bladder

Overactive Bladder

What is Overactive Bladder?

OverActiveBladder is a problem that affects the bladder’s ability to hold urine.When a healthy bladder is filled with urine, it stretches and expands to accommodate the increased volume. Specialized nerves in the bladder lining can then sense when the bladder is full and signal to the brain that it is time to empty.

Normally, you are able to voluntarily control when to empty the bladder - you have the sensation of needing to urinate and are able to hold it until you get to a toilet. You are then able to voluntarily relax your pelvic floor muscles, allowing the urine to exit the bladder.

For people with OAB, however, there is thought to be abnormal communication between the brain and the bladder such that the bladder muscle (the detrusor muscle) contracts too often or spontaneously and involuntarily. You may experience a strong, sudden urge to pee even when the bladder volume is low. This can lead to not only frequent passing of urine, but also involuntary leakage ( better known as incontinence)

Most commonly OAB is found in neurologically normal individuals.

This is an illustration of a normal full bladder and an OAB.

 Overactive_Bladder_Activity_OAB_Model.png (85 KB)


It is not always easy to identify a common feature responsible for bladder over-activity as it has a variety of potential causes. If you experience symptoms of OAB it is important that you discuss them with your GP as soon as possible as there are treatments availble to help you.

However the following are possible causes:

  • Urinary tract infection – a bacterial infection of the bladder/kidneys.  
  • Outflow obstruction - men with benign prostatic obstruction may complain of symptoms of overactive bladder.
  • Neurogenic - those with conditions such as Parkinsons Disease, Multiple Sclerosis or those who have suffered a stroke may also develop overactive bladder.
  • Medicines - some medications may be associated with overactive bladder. These include diuretics, phenothiazides, opioids. 
  • Alcohol/caffeinated beverages - can increase symptoms of OAB.
  • Diabetes
  • Drinking excess fluids


Your GP or Consultant may perform several tests to identify your condition and to exclude other potential illnesses. These  include urinalysis, physical exam, bladder scan, urodynamic testing, or cystoscopy. It is likely that you will be referred to a  urologist who specialises  in bladder tissue health. Bladder Health UK can help you to find a Urologist who specialises in functional urology.



Symptoms of OAB can differ from person to person and they may change over time. Patients may experience some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Frequency - The need to pass urine more than 8 times during the day.
  • Nocturia - The need to get out of bed at night to pass urine more than once. Click here to download a BHUK leaflet about Nocturia
  • Nocturnal Enuresis - Urinating during sleep.
  • Urgency - The sudden need to pass urine before reaching a toilet. 
  • Coital incontinence - Leaking urine during sex.

Overactive bladder can affect women, men and children of any age. Sufferers are predominately adult women with adult men coming a close second.

In two large studies it was found that approximately one in six adults reported some symptoms of an overactive bladder. Symptoms vary in their severity. About one in three people with an overactive baldder have episodes of urge incontinence. 

Incidents of overactive bladder can increase with age. Those with overactive bladders do not always seek medical help or advice due to embarrassment or the belief that there is no help available because it is a natural consequence of aging or for women it is a consequence of childbirth.

I found Bladder health so helpful at this time. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them to others.

All aspects of quality of life may be affected when suffering from an overactive bladder. Travelling may be difficult due to concerns over possible urine leakage or locating the nearest toilet.

If a person suffers from uncontrolled bladder leakage, there may be an increased amount of washing, drying and ironing. Using pads or waterproof items may be beneficial.

Individuals with overactive bladder may feel distress, embarrassment, inconvenience, loss of self-esteem and self-control. There will also be an effect on the sufferers’ personal relationships with others.

Fortunately, you do not have to live with this condition. Several treatment options exist to help manage your OAB symptoms. The first step is communicating with your doctor and obtaining the right diagnosis.


If you are struggling to cope with your symptoms and are too embarrased to discuss it please give us a call on our confidential Advice Line - 0121 702 0820. It will also be beneficial to join Bladder Health UK and gain further information on treatments and lifestyle tips to help gain control of your symptoms.

A shared decision-making process is essential in ensuring a positive outcome when seeking treatment from your doctor. A physician may make a treatment recommendation based on your outcome goals, lifestyle, and OAB/SUI severity along with other factors, but ultimately, the decision about what treatment option you want to pursue is yours.

How can BHUK help you, if you join us?


Members Magazine "Your Bladder Health", published 3 times per year.


An excellent booklet written to provide practical help and advice.


Telephone Advice Line – 0121 702 0820


Telephone contact - with a BHUK Phone-Pal and fellow sufferer.


Comprehensive Resources - fact sheets, DVDs, lending library, Can't Wait Cards and much more.


Message Forums- exchange personal experiences of bladder illness with others.


Social Media sites including Facebook @BladderHealthUK and Twitter #bladdersupport

Area Co-ordinator

Area Co-ordinator - providing an opportunity to have personal contact with other sufferers.

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