Despite how common it is, experts don’t consider overactive bladder (OAB) a natural part of the aging process or a typical occurrence in people assigned female at birth. It won’t go away on its own. But treatments include medications, bladder retraining, and more.

OAB describes urinary symptoms, such as incontinence and frequent urination. Also known as urge incontinence, OAB is extremely common. In the United States, it affects an estimated 40% of people assigned female at birth and 30% of people assigned male at birth.

Learn more about the symptoms of OAB and why you may want to consider speaking with a doctor about your treatment options.

Getting treatment for OAB can relieve your symptoms and improve your quality of life.

Without treatment, OAB may negatively affect your regular activities. Symptoms like the sudden urge to urinate and frequent urination may interrupt your daily routine. Some people may find engaging in activities far from a bathroom difficult, leading to possible social isolation.

Additionally, OAB may affect your ability to get a good night’s sleep. Over time, regular sleep deprivation may increase your risk of:

OAB results from nerve signal disruptions between your brain and bladder. Treatment can help resolve these disruptions. Consider contacting a doctor for a diagnosis so they can help determine what treatments may help.

The main symptom of OAB is a sudden urge to urinate. Sometimes, other symptoms may accompany the urge, including:

These symptoms are different from those that people experience with stress incontinence, which may cause urine leaks when exercise, sneezing, coughing, or laughing places stress on the bladder.

OAB results in urine releasing at the wrong time. This doesn’t typically go away on its own and lasts until you get treatment.

Treatment can help OAB symptoms and improve your quality of life. While you and your doctor can adjust your treatment plan as your symptoms get better, OAB rarely resolves.

There’s currently no cure for OAB, and it’s not always preventable. Instead, the focus is to treat symptoms with lifestyle changes and medical interventions.

For example, if a doctor finds that lifestyle habits are a key cause, making the recommended changes could improve your symptoms. Medications may also treat other causes of OAB, such as hormone imbalances or neurological disorders.

A doctor may recommend one or more of the following OAB treatments:

  • Lifestyle changes: This treatment involves reducing caffeine and alcohol intake and certain foods that might worsen OAB symptoms, such as spicy foods and citrus fruits. Quitting smoking, if it applies, may also help OAB. Quitting is often difficult, but a doctor can build a cessation plan that may work for you.
  • Keeping a bladder diary: This treatment involves noting how often you urinate, and when urges arise, you and a doctor can identify possible triggers, such as certain foods and beverages.
  • Bladder retraining: This treatment involves timed bathroom trips, double voiding (waiting a few minutes after going to see if you can go again) at each trip to fully empty your bladder, or delayed voiding.
  • Bladder muscle exercises: This treatment involves a doctor recommending exercise options such as Kegel exercises or biofeedback training.
  • Behavioral therapy: This treatment involves working with doctors on behavioral training techniques designed to change your bathroom habits and increase your awareness of them. Experts find this therapy to be particularly helpful in younger adults.
  • Medications: This treatment involves taking certain prescription drugs, such as beta-3 agonists and anti-muscarinics, which may help relax your bladder muscle and reduce symptoms.
  • Botox injections: This treatment involves a doctor giving you injections of a muscle-relaxing agent about every 6 months, which may also help improve symptoms of OAB.
  • Neuromodulation therapy: This treatment involves medical techniques with doctors, which may include electrical currents and medications designed to stimulate your nerves. This may correct nerve signals between your brain and bladder.

In rare cases, a doctor may recommend surgery for OAB. Reserved for severe cases that don’t respond to other treatments, OAB surgery may involve either a bladder reconstruction or urinary diversion.

Stopping treatment will likely lead to recurring OAB symptoms.

Once you start treatment for OAB, a doctor may recommend a follow-up visit after 2 to 3 months to examine your body’s response to medications or other therapies.

It’s important to follow your treatment plan and speak with a doctor if you have bothersome side effects from your medications, such as constipation and dry mouth.

If you’re concerned you might have OAB, consider discussing the following questions with a doctor:

How do I know if my bladder is overactive?

Having sudden urges to urinate regularly is one classic symptom of OAB. Also, some doctors consider urinating more than eight times a day as a possible symptom of this condition. However, the only way to know for sure whether you have OAB is a diagnosis from a doctor.

What causes overactive bladder?

OAB results from nerve signal dysfunction between your brain and bladder. This has various possible causes, including neurological disorders, medication side effects, and hormone changes.

What can overactive bladder be mistaken for?

People may sometimes mistake OAB for stress incontinence. Additionally, a doctor may rule out other possible causes of urinary urges and frequency, such as neurological disorders, urinary tract infections, or a health concern related to your pelvic muscles.

OAB is a common type of urinary incontinence that causes frequent urges to urinate. It’s not a temporary health concern, and your symptoms will likely continue to progress without treatment.

If you have possible symptoms of OAB, consider speaking with a medical professional. They can help you determine the best treatment plan that can help improve your quality of life.