Overactive Bladder: Symptoms and Treatments

An overactive bladder brings inconvenience to 12% to 14% of the UK population. The symptoms of this condition are a frequent urge to urinate and incontinence (involuntary loss of urine). You can’t predict what will happen next when you have an overactive bladder. Thus, it’s challenging to deal with symptoms. It can affect lifestyle and social activities. Being in this situation can fuel emotional distress and isolation. The good news is that there are treatments that ease out the symptoms of an overactive bladder.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What happens when you have an overactive bladder? 

Going through occasional incontinence is not always a sign of an overactive bladder. The sudden leakage of urine is normal in some cases. For example, it happens when you burst out laughing. Moreover, the loss of urine occurs when you’ve been resisting peeing for an extended period. 

Overactive bladder is characterized by:

  • Unmanageable urge to urinate
  • Frequent unintentional loss of urine
  • The abnormal frequency of urination
  • The need to wake up once to pee every night

Note that the symptoms can vary from person to person. That’s why it would be almost impossible to figure out if you have an overactive bladder or not without a doctor’s advice. It’s best to identify the symptoms to provide immediate treatments.

How do you calm an overactive bladder? 

Here are some treatments for an overactive bladder:

Pelvic floor physical therapy

In this treatment, you’ll need a therapist who specializes in pelvic muscle. Muscle exercises and strengthening are the activities of this therapy. With regular exercise, symptoms such as frequent, urgent, and nighttime urination will be alleviated. 

Nerve stimulation

This is a process of modifying the electric signals from the nerves which affect the bladder’s functions. Electrical stimulation is performed by placing a small wire on the lower back or piercing the skin of the lower leg with a tiny needle.

Although this procedure has yet to be fully formalized, several studies have shown that this procedure can provide relief for the symptoms of an overactive bladder.


Botox can temporarily weaken or paralyze the gall bladder. However, it should be administered in small doses. Botox suppresses the frequent contractions of the bladder, which reduces the intensity of the symptoms. A single shot of botox can lasts up to half a year and even eight months. Thus, it’s a recurring treatment.


Medication can ease overactive bladder symptoms by reducing incontinence and the urge to pee. The required medicines are mirabegron, tolterodine, and trospium. However, you may experience side effects from these medications. Watch out for constipation and dryness in the eyes or mouth. 


This is the option for those who didn’t receive any relief from the previous treatments. It should be done to increase the bladder’s capacity.

What causes overactive bladder syndrome? 

The kidneys produce urine that is then transferred to the bladder. Once the brain knows about it, the message will be sent to your bladder that you need to urinate. The pelvic floor muscle gives way by relaxing to let the pee out for your body.

When a bladder becomes overactive, the pelvic muscles start to contract involuntarily. Thus, you may feel the need to urinate often despite having an empty bladder. Here are some factors and conditions that cause this condition:

  • Excessively drinking fluid
  • Some medications may boost urine production
  • UTI (urinary tract infection)
  • Immoderate consumptions of bladder irritants such as coffee and alcohol
  • Failing to empty the bladder on time
  • Bladder stones or other kinds of bladder abnormalities

The exact cause of the overactive bladder remains unknown so further study and research are needed. Even so, this doesn’t necessarily happen because of ageing. Thus, the symptoms shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s best to see a doctor for a precise diagnosis.

How do I know if I have an overactive bladder? 

Multiple tests are needed to confirm that someone has an overactive bladder. The best move for this situation is to see a urologist who is an expert in urinary tract problems. These are tests that you need to take:


Urine is collected and tested for abnormalities. It’s the usual process in checking if there’s a urinary tract infection or other urinary tract issues.

Physical examination

During the physical examination, the doctor checks the tenderness of the abdomen and areas where the kidneys are located. The enlarged prostate is another concern in this process.

Scanning of the bladder

After you pee, you’ll go through an ultrasound to scan the remaining amount of urine in your bladder. 

Urodynamic testing

This is composed of different tests to gauge the ability of the bladder in holding and storing urine.


You have to be sedated when undergoing this procedure. The doctor inserts a lighted scope into the bladder. In this way, it will be discovered if the symptoms are caused by the abnormalities in your bladder. Bladder stones or tumours, if present, will be detected. Doctors will ask you to have more tests for confirmation. Just like having biopsies as well.

What causes an overactive bladder in males? 

Some men may think that symptoms are sometimes regarded as a normal body reaction. 

Men usually have these symptoms:

  • An urgent need to urinate
  • Urinating at least eight times a day
  • Leaking urine
  • The need to urinate can’t be easily controlled

Enlarged prostate is the main cause of overactive bladder in men. Since the glands swell, it creates an obstacle that blocks the urine flow and incontinence forms. This is common among elderly men, thus, it’s expected for them to have an overactive bladder. Prostate issues should be given treatment so the bladder will not have problems.

What causes excessive urination in females? 

There’s no definite cause why most women have overactive bladders. Due to studies, it usually occurs after menopause due to estrogen deficiency. But still, it can happen at any age. Women can do some exercises, take medicine, and surgery to treat the symptoms.

Can a child have an overactive bladder? 

Unfortunately, this condition is prevalent among children. But still, not all soiled beds can be blamed for an overactive bladder. Some kids can get over it through time. If they still have it, these are the symptoms that they need to deal with:

  • Urgent and frequent peeing
  • Leaking urine
  • Peeing more than 8 times a day
  • After urinating, it seems that the bladder wasn’t emptied 

As children grow older, they gradually get over this condition. They learn how to control their bladder and know the signs that it’s time to urinate as they mature. It’s best to seek a doctor’s advice if the symptoms don’t improve.

The possible cause of an overactive bladder among children:

  • UTI or urinary tract infection
  • Caffeine
  • Anxiety and stress
  • Allergy
  • Constipation
  • Structural defects

The treatments for an overactive bladder for children are the same as what is advised to adults.

Can surgery fix an overactive bladder? 

It’s only time for surgery if you haven’t seen any improvement after you’ve tried other treatments.

Sacral nerve stimulation

Errant nerve impulses are often the cause of an overactive bladder. These impulses direct your bladder to pee even though it’s not necessary. Even after urination, you still feel that you need to do it again. In this surgical process, a small electrode is placed under the skin of the lower abdomen or buttocks. The said electrode delivers pulses to regulate the signals that alert your body to pee.


This the process of enlarging a naturally small bladder. This is only done for patients who have tried other treatments without success.

Diversion of urine

Ureters (the tubes that allow the urine to pass from the kidney to the bladder) are the main focus of this surgery. They are being rerouted so the urgency and frequency of the feeling to urinate are lowered. The doctor will bypass the bladder first then make an opening in the abdominal wall. There will be an ostomy bag that will catch the urine. 

Bladder removal

In rare cases, the doctor will opt to remove a bladder. Due to unwavering symptoms and complications, this is the final resort. Bladder removal will require an ostomy bag outside the body. The urine is being directed to this bag. This surgery’s efficacy is unquestionable, but it’s risky and may cause lifetime complications.

What foods to avoid if you have an overactive bladder? 

The foods that you eat surely affect your urinary tract. Some of them can trigger symptoms and irritate your bladder. You can make a journal for the foods that are not good for you and those that boost your bladder’s health. 

These diet-related factors will help you for sure:

  • Carbonated drinks – It can’t be denied that this bubbly drink is refreshing. However, it can worsen the symptoms as it irritates the bladder.
  • Fluid intake – It’s always recommended to drink enough water daily. Too much is not good because it can only increase the need to urinate.
  • Drinking before bedtime – Drinking liquid two or three hours before going to sleep will compel you to pee frequently at night. 
  • Sensitivity towards gluten – If you’re sensitive or allergic to gluten, the symptoms of an overactive bladder can get worse. Gluten is a protein that is usually found in foods that are made of wheat.
  • Caffeine – It’s a stimulant and it’s known to enhance the symptoms of an overactive bladder. You’ll find it in coffee, chocolate, soda, and some over-the-counter drugs.
  • Irritating foods – People react differently to some kinds of food. Some will be irritated by spicy food, alcoholic beverages, artificial sweeteners, artificial flavouring, tomato products, or citrus fruits.

How can I stop frequent urination naturally? 

Vitamins or Supplements

Some vitamins, supplements, and herbs are great alternatives in treating an overactive bladder. The best example is the Chinese herbal mixture of mushroom extracts, gosha-junki-gan, Ganoderma lucidum, and some plant extracts like capsaicin and corn silk.

L-arginine and magnesium hydroxide are linked with the study of overactive bladder. They have been shown to help relieve the symptoms. Thus, it’s safe to have them as supplements. Of course, a doctor’s prescription is still necessary.

Essential Oils

When a bladder is irritated, your nerves are fired up while the muscles suddenly contract. With the calming effect of essential oils, the nerves and muscles will be at ease. Hence, the symptoms won’t be persistent. Lavender oil, ylang-ylang oil, pumpkin seed oil, and clary sage oil are the most effective in countering the symptoms. 


Needles with fine tips are placed in some parts of the body. It is done to activate some points to stabilize the flow of energy or qi. The aim is to also alleviate the symptoms.

Homoeopathic remedies

This treatment is not solely for relieving an overactive bladder but for the wellness of the entire body. The result can be achieved by listening to your body to be able to find the appropriate treatment. Thereby, the common method is cutting off irritating foods that can awaken the urgency to urinate. Muscle training and bladder training are also available. These practices can help you learn how to stave off urination for longer.

How do you strengthen a weak bladder? 

The muscles near your urinary tract can help you fight the urge to pee. They can also make you fully discharge your urine when the need arises. Just like with other types of muscles, they need to be strengthened first.

Pelvic floor exercise

This exercise is also termed as ‘Kegels’. The strength in these muscles can induce urinating and stop it promptly. Thus, you don’t have to deal with unintentional peeing. What you need to do is squeeze your pelvic muscle onto the floor and let it stay that way for several seconds. To know the right muscles, just think of the ones that you use when delaying urination. It should be done a couple of times each day.

Bladder training

Doing this exercise is teaching your muscles and nerves to let the urine stay in the urinary tract for a reasonable period. Therefore, you won’t have the urge to pee from time to time. It can be done every time the need to urinate comes up. You can start doing it in as short as three minutes. You can lengthen it as you increase the build-up.

Vaginal cones

If you think that working on those muscles is difficult or abstract, you can utilize vaginal cones. These are the tools that can make you easily isolate your pelvic muscles. Do this once a day. Having these exercises continuously will allow you to lift heavier cones.

What causes an overactive bladder at night? 

Some people with an overactive bladder will be awake twice or thrice a night. Hence, it’s called nocturia. It’s not exactly just an overactive bladder since some who experience it don’t have symptoms during the day. Nocturia mostly happens to people who are 60 years old or older. However, one in three adults needs two or more bathroom trips per night.

How successful is botox for bladder control? 

Botox is commonly known as the eraser of wrinkles. Its use was escalated to a higher level as it shows promising results in treating an overactive bladder. Medications work to calm the targeted muscles and nerves. If they don’t work, the doctor will introduce the wonders of botox.

Botox, once injected into the muscles of your bladder, has the same effects as the medicine. It has some side effects but it’s reportedly tolerable. A single shot is good for six to eight months. After the said period, your doctor needs to give you another dose. You need to discuss it with your doctor before you engage in this process.

Can overactive bladder go away? 

An overactive bladder can be a nuisance in your everyday life. Doctors can help you once your condition is confirmed. You must be open to changes in your lifestyle to carry out the desired result from treatments.

Don’t restrain yourself from telling your doctor all the symptoms that you’re going through. These symptoms are underreported most of the time. It’s essential for developing a treatment plan.