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Overactive Bladder

Overactive Bladder Overview

Overactive bladder (OAB) is a type of urinary incontinence causing involuntary loss of bladder control and the urge to urinate. This is usually caused by abnormal contractions of the muscles of the urinary bladder (mainly detrusor muscle), resulting in a sudden, uncontrollable urge to urinate (called urinary urgency) with or without actual leakage of urine, even thought only small amounts of urine may be in the bladder.

Overactive bladder may also be associated with frequent urination (urinary frequency) and nighttime urination (nocturia). OAB is not the only cause for these symptoms; other possibilities include urinary tract infection, diabetes, medication use such as diuretics (water pills), prostate disease, bladder tumors, or interstitial cystitis (causing pelvic pain, urinary frequency, and urgency).

Another type of urinary incontinence is called stress incontinence, which results from weakness of the sphincter and other structures designed to keep urine from leaking out of the bladder. Furthermore, overflow incontinence results from accumulation of excessive amounts of urine in the bladder.

Overactive bladder can happen at any age, but it is most common in the elderly population. Recent surveys have suggested a prevalence of 10%-20% in the population over 40 years of age with similar numbers in men compared to women. It is worth mentioning, however, that men tend to develop this condition later in life than do women.

Even though overactive bladder is a benign condition, it impacts the quality of life of those who suffer from it. Fear and embarrassment from urinary urgency and incontinence in public and among family and friends may result in social isolation, guilt, depressive symptoms, and intimacy issues. Family members of the elderly with OAB are often dealt the burden of assisting their loved ones with toileting, cleaning, hygiene, and personal distress.

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