Incontinence Home > Overactive Bladder

In adults over age 40, it is estimated that 1 in 5 people has an overactive bladder. This condition happens when people can't hold their urine long enough to get to the toilet in time. It is characterized by frequent urination, a strong, sudden need to urinate, and other symptoms. About 70 percent of women with this condition benefit from a combination of simple measures, such as bladder retraining, exercises, and medication.

What Is Overactive Bladder?

Loss of bladder control is called urinary incontinence. It can happen to anyone, but is very common in older people. More than 13 million people in the United States -- male and female, young and old -- experience urinary incontinence. It is often temporary, and it always results from an underlying medical condition.
 
One type of urinary incontinence is called urge incontinence. Urge incontinence is also known as overactive bladder. If you lose urine for no apparent reason, while suddenly feeling the need or urge to urinate, you may have overactive bladder.
 
The most common cause of overactive bladder is inappropriate bladder contractions.
 
It is estimated that 1 in 5 adults over age 40 has symptoms of overactive bladder.
 
If you experience overactive bladder, you may feel embarrassed. It may help you to remember that loss of bladder control can usually be treated. You will need to overcome your embarrassment, and see a doctor, to learn if you need treatment for an underlying medical condition.
 

Understanding Bladder Control

The body stores urine in the bladder. During urination, muscles in the bladder contract or tighten. This forces urine out of the bladder, and into a tube called the urethra, that carries urine out of the body. At the same time, muscles surrounding the urethra relax and let the urine pass through. Spinal nerves control how these muscles move. Overactive bladder occurs if the bladder muscles contract without warning.
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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