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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago

Overactive Bladder and Urge Incontinence

Overactive bladder syndrome (OAB) can cause people to feel a frequent and/or urgent need to urinate. Frequent urination with an overactive bladder can get in the way of everyday life activities and interfere with healthy sleep. Sometimes an unstoppable urge to urinate can lead to unintentional urine loss, a condition referred to as urge incontinence. OAB affects approximately 33 million people in the US. As many as one in six Americans have reported experiencing OAB, more than asthma, osteoporosis or diabetes.

Sufferers do not need to accept OAB as a normal part of aging. Overactive bladder may have many causes and is often multifactorial. Most OAB is idiopathic, which means there is no known cause. However, thorough evaluation is necessary to exclude more significant causes. Once deemed idiopathic, empiric therapy is the accepted approach. There are many successful treatments for people with an overactive bladder, including:

  • Behavior and dietary modification
  • Medication
  • Physical therapy of the pelvic floor
  • Minimally-invasive procedures such as sacral nerve stimulation or botox therapy
  • Major surgery is rarely indicated for OAB in the absence of pelvic organ prolapse
Last UpdateDecember 6, 2011