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How Often Is Too Often? 5 Symptoms of an Overactive Bladder

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  • Got to go?

    Got to go?

    Every now and then, having to urinate frequently is normal. If you drink large amounts of fluid, it makes sense that you might have to make more trips to the bathroom. Even certain foods make you need to urinate more.

    But when does “every now and then” become far too often? Overactive bladder (OAB) affects more than 33 million adults in the United States.

    Click through the slideshow to learn five signs of an overactive bladder.

  • Sudden urge to urinate

    Sudden urge to urinate

    If you have an overactive bladder, you probably experience an intense, urgent, overwhelming need to urinate. Perhaps it’s so sudden that you have trouble making it to the bathroom in time.

    This symptom can occur at any time of day, regardless of where you are and what you’ve had to drink. It can happen if you’ve had nothing to drink for hours. It can even happen after you’ve already emptied your bladder.

  • Urinating too often

    Urinating too often

    In a 24-hour period, you shouldn’t need to urinate more than about eight times. If you find yourself going and going, until you’re certain you’ll wear a path to the restroom, you may have OAB. A full-feeling bladder should release more than just a few little drops. If you’re rushing to the restroom for only a small amount, something may not be quite right.

  • Disrupted sleep

    Disrupted sleep

    Overactive bladder may disrupt your sleep, waking you up two or more times a night to urinate. This symptom is also called nocturia. Nocturia becomes more common as we age, but repeated, disruptive overnight urges are a common sign of overactive bladder. Disrupted sleep on an ongoing basis can also have detrimental effects on your overall health, mood, and sense of well-being.

  • Accidents


    An “accident” is a sure sign that something isn’t right. Accidents can be minor, like leaking a few drops just as you make it to the toilet. Or they can be more serious. If you lose control of your bladder and can’t stop yourself from urinating before you reach the bathroom, you may have overactive bladder. Whether an accident is minor or more serious, it’s unpleasant and may be cause for concern.

  • Adjusting your life to your bladder

    Adjusting your life to your bladder

    Do you find yourself immediately spotting restroom locations when you’re in public? Are you avoiding social situations because you’re worried about having an accident? If you’re making concessions to your urinary patterns, you probably have a case of overactive bladder.

    Overactive bladder symptoms can cause emotional distress and lead to isolation and depression. If left untreated, OAB can affect your quality of life.

  • What can I do about it?

    What can I do about it?

    If you have mild symptoms of overactive bladder:

    • Follow a schedule for drinking fluids.
    • Avoid drinking right before going to bed.
    • Limit bladder irritants like alcohol, caffeine, artificial sweeteners, and spicy foods.

    Try performing exercises, such as Kegels, that use muscle contractions to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. This muscle contraction is useful to try when you have the urge to go. Several quick squeezes may actually help to relax the bladder and decrease the feeling of needing to go. You can also work on training your bladder by delaying urination when possible and scheduling bathroom breaks.

    Wear protective undergarments to catch leaks, so you can go out in public with confidence.

  • When should I see a doctor?

    When should I see a doctor?

    If simple lifestyle changes don’t work, see a doctor. You should see your doctor right away if you have other symptoms, such as:

    • fever
    • fatigue
    • pain
    • blood in the urine

    Some symptoms of overactive bladder may indicate an underlying condition, such as urinary tract infection or diabetes. If you’re diagnosed with overactive bladder, your doctor can help you with a treatment plan to get you back on track.