Overactive Bladder (OAB)

What is overactive bladder?

The bladder is a balloon-shaped organ in the lower abdomen that stores urine from the kidneys until it is passed out of the body. Overactive bladder causes a sudden urge to urinate. Normally, when the bladder is full, it contracts, and urine is expelled from the body through the urethra. Overactive bladder starts with a muscle contraction in the bladder wall. The result is a need or urge to urinate (urinary urgency). The urge may be difficult to stop, and overactive bladder may lead to the involuntary loss of urine (urge incontinence).
Risk factors
  • Older age 
  • Cognitive decline. Many people who have had a stroke or suffer with Alzheimer's disease tend to develop an overactive bladder. 
After a reviewing a patient’s medical history and physical exam, additional tests may be ordered before a diagnosis can be made:
  • Urine sample to test for infection, traces of blood, or other abnormalities
  • Urodynamic tests assess bladder function, the amount of urine after voiding, the degree of incontinence (how completely the bladder empties), and bladder irritability. 
  • Uroflowmetry measures the volume and speed of urination. 
  • Cystometry measures the pressure of the bladder and its capacity during bladder filling. It also evaluates the function of the detrusor muscle to determine the degree of muscle contraction, the pressure of any leakage, and the pressure required to fully empty the bladder.
  • Electromyography assesses the coordination of nerve impulses in the bladder muscles and in the urinary sphincter. 
  • Video urodynamics uses imaging and ultrasound to create images of the bladder, both filled and after voiding.
  • Cystoscopy is used to see the interior of the urethra and the bladder.
  • Postvoid residual urine test measures the urine left in the bladder. 
Treatment for overactive bladder is aimed to reduce the symptoms and hopefully cure the disorder. Management of overactive bladder often begins with behavioral strategies but also include other treatments, such as medications. 
  • Overactive bladder affects an estimated 33 million Americans.
  • In the United States, 30% of men and 40% of women live with overactive bladder symptoms.
  • Affects 1 out of 7 US women and a similar proportion of men.
about overactive bladder

  • "Overactive Bladder." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 12 Mar. 2017. Web. 30 June 2017.  
  • "Overactive Bladder." Bladder | Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic, n.d. Web. 30 June 2017.
  • "Overactive Bladder." Overactive Bladder - Cedars-Sinai. Cedars-Sinai, n.d. Web. 30 June 2017.
  • "Overactive Bladder." Overactive Bladder. St. Mary Medical Center Langhorne PA, n.d. Web. 30 June 2017.


Bladder health is very important and is impacted by many lifestyle and environmental factors. November is Bladder Health Month and the Urology Care Foundation is taking action by informing the public about common bladder health problems. To commemorate this annual event, here are four ways to keep your bladder healthy:
bladder health awareness month


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