Overactive bladder

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Overactive bladder
Illu bladder.jpg
Classification and external resources
ICD-10 N32.8
ICD-9 596.51
MeSH D053201

Overactive bladder (also known as OAB, or Overactive Bladder Syndrome) is a urological condition related to problems with urination. It is an often debilitating and stigmatised syndrome that is not life-threatening and does not always require treatment.[1][2]

The hallmark symptom of overactive bladder is urgency, but the diagnosis also includes frequent urination, frequent interruptions of sleep because of the need to urinate (nocturia), and urinating unintentionally followed by an urge to continue (urge incontinence). Overactive bladder has many causes which can include diseases such as diabetes,[citation needed] medications such as diuretics, or lifestyle choices such as excessive consumption of caffeine or alcohol.[3] Bothersome urinary symptoms that are related to neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis are generally treated differently from overactive bladder in people who do not have neurological problems.

People with the condition often have the symptoms for a long time before seeking medical care, and the condition is sometimes identified by caregivers rather than the person with the symptoms. The condition is similar to polyuria and polydipsia and is distinguished from other conditions because the amount of urine passed when there is an urgent need to urinate is relatively small with overactive bladder. Pain while urinating suggests that there is a problem other than overactive bladder.[2]

Management of overactive bladder is addressed in terms of quality of life since it is not a life-threatening problem, and treatment is not always necessary if the treatment would cause more discomfort than the symptoms. The person often keeps a diary tracking urination to help determine whether treatments are working. If the person's quality of life is impaired and behavioral therapies do not work, medications such as anti-muscarinic drugs are used to control the symptoms. Invasive treatment such as surgery to modify spinal nerves is possible but is avoided because of the potential for permanent damage and the nonthreatening nature of the disorder. Overactive bladder is not rare, estimates in population studies vary widely and suggest that from 7-27% of men and 9-43% of women experience these symptoms.[citation needed] Other studies suggest that the condition is more common in men.[citation needed] Many people who have problems have them for less than a year.[2]


There is some controversy about the classification and diagnosis of OAB.[2][4] Some sources classify overactive bladder into "wet" and "dry" variants depending on whether it is an urgent need to urinate or if it includes incontinence. Wet variants are more common than dry variants.[5] The distinction is not absolute, one study suggested that many classified as "dry" were actually "wet" and that patients with no history of any leakage may have had other syndromes.[6]

Signs and Symptoms[edit]

Overactive bladder is characterized by a group of four symptoms: urgency, urinary frequency, nocturia, and urge incontinence. Urge incontinence is not present in the "dry" classification.

Urgency is considered the hallmark symptom of OAB, but there are no clear criteria for what constitutes urgency and studies often use other criteria.[2] Urgency is currently defined by the International Continence Society (ICS), as of 2002, as "Sudden, compelling desire to pass urine that is difficult to defer." The previous definition was "Strong desire to void accompanied by fear of leakage or pain."[7] The definition does not address the immediacy of the urge to void and has been criticized as subjective.[7]

Urinary frequency is considered abnormal if the person urinates more than eight times in a day. This frequency is usually monitored by having the patient keep a voiding diary where they record urination episodes.[2] The number of episodes varies depending on sleep, fluid intake, medications, and up to seven is considered normal if consistent with the other factors.

Nocturia is a symptom where the person complains of interrupted sleep because of an urge to void and, like the urinary frequency component, is affected by similar lifestyle and medical factors. Individual waking events are not considered abnormal, one study in Finland established two or more voids per night as affecting quality of life.[8]

Urge incontinence is a form of urinary incontinence characterized by the involuntary loss of urine occurring for no apparent reason while feeling urinary urgency as discussed above. Like frequency, the person can track incontinence in a diary to assist with diagnosis and management of symptoms. Urge incontinence can also be measured with pad tests, and these are often used for research purposes. Some people with urge incontinence also have stress incontinence and this can complicate clinical studies.[2]

It is important that the clinician and the patient both reach a consensus on the term, 'urgency.' Some common phrases used to describe OAB include, 'When I've got to go, I've got to go,' or 'When I have to go, I have to rush, because I think I will wet myself.' Hence the term, 'fear of leakage,' is an important concept to patients. [9]


The etiology of OAB is unclear, and indeed there may be multiple causes.[10] It is often associated with overactivity of the Detrusor urinae muscle, a pattern of bladder muscle contraction observed during urodynamics.[11] It is also possible that the increased contractile nature originates from within the urothelium and lamina propria, and abnormal contractions in this tissue could stimulate dysfunction in the detrusor or whole bladder.[12] Treatments for OAB are usually synonymous with treatments for detrusor overactivity. OAB is distinct from stress urinary incontinence, but when they occur together, the condition is usually known as mixed incontinence.


Diagnosis of OAB is made primarily by ruling out other causes of overactivity of the bladder such as an infection or bladder tumor.[11] The diagnosis is confirmed by cystometry. Additionally, urine culture may be done to rule out infection. The frequency/volume chart may be maintained and cystourethroscopy may be done to exclude tumor and kidney stones. If there is an underlying metabolic or pathologic condition that explains the symptoms, the symptoms may be considered part of that disease and not OAB.

OAB causes similar symptoms to some other conditions such as urinary tract infection (UTI), bladder cancer, and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Urinary tract infections often involve pain and hematuria (blood in the urine) which are typically absent in OAB. Bladder cancer usually includes hematuria and can include pain, both not associated with OAB, and the common symptoms of OAB (urgency, frequency, and nocturia) may be absent. BPH frequently includes symptoms at the time of voiding as well as sometimes including pain or hematuria, and all of these are not usually present in OAB.[7]


Treatment for OAB includes nonpharmacologic methods such as lifestyle modification (fluid restriction, avoidance of caffeine), bladder retraining or may involve the use of pharmaceutical agents such as antimuscarinic drugs (e.g., darifenacin, hyoscyamine, oxybutynin, tolterodine, solifenacin, trospium, fesoterodine).[11] β3 adrenergic receptor agonists (e.g., mirabegron),[13] and various devices (Urgent PC Neuromodulation System, InterStim) may also be used. Botulinum toxin A (Botox) is approved by the Food and Drug Administration in adults with neurological conditions, including multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury.[14] Botulinum Toxin A injections into the bladder wall can suppress involuntary bladder contractions by blocking nerve signals and may be effective for up to 9 months.[15][16] The growing knowledge of pathophysiology of overactive bladder fuelled a huge amount of basic and clinical research in this field of pharmacotherapy.[17][18][19] A surgical intervention involves the enlargement of the bladder using bowel tissues, although generally used as a last resort. This procedure can greatly enlarge urine volume in the bladder.

Studies have shown that few people get complete relief from overactive bladder drugs and that all available drugs are no more than moderately effective.[20] A typical person with overactive bladder may urinate 12 times per day.[20] Medication may reduce this number by 2-3 and reduce urinary incontinence events by 1-2 per day.[20]

Epidemiology and prognosis[edit]

Earlier reports estimated that about one in six adults in the United States and Europe had OAB.[21][22] The prevalence of OAB increases with age,[21][22] thus it is expected that OAB will become more common in the future as the average age of people living in the developed world is increasing. However, a recent Finnish population-based survey[23] suggested that the prevalence had been largely overestimated due to methodological shortcomings regarding age distribution and low participation (in earlier reports). It is suspected, then, that OAB affects approximately half the number of individuals as earlier reported.[23]

The American Urological Association reports[citation needed] studies showing rates as low as 7% to as high as 27% in men and rates as low as 9% to 43% in women. Urge incontinence was reported as higher in women. Older people are more likely to be affected, and prevalence of symptoms increases with age. Many people with OAB symptoms had those symptoms subside within a year, with estimates as high as 39%, but most have symptoms for several years.[2]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Abrams, P; Cardozo, L; Fall, M; Griffiths, D; Rosier, P; Ulmsten, U; Van Kerrebroeck, P; Victor, A; Wein, A; Standardisation Sub-Committee of the International Continence, Society (January 2003). "The standardisation of terminology in lower urinary tract function: report from the standardisation sub-committee of the International Continence Society.". Urology 61 (1): 37–49. doi:10.1016/s0090-4295(02)02243-4. PMID 12559262. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT OF OVERACTIVE BLADDER (Non-Neurogenic) IN ADULTS: AUA/SUFU GUIDELINE" (PDF). American Urological Association. Retrieved 25 Aug 2013. 
  3. ^ "Overactive Bladder: Causes". Mayo Clinic. Retrieved 25 Aug 2013. 
  4. ^ Homma, Yukio (1 January 2008). "Lower urinary tract symptomatology: Its definition and confusion". International Journal of Urology 15 (1): 35–43. doi:10.1111/j.1442-2042.2007.01907.x. 
  5. ^ "Overactive Bladder". Cornell University Weill Cornell Medical College Department of Urology. Retrieved 25 Aug 2013. 
  6. ^ Anger JT (2012). "How dry is "OAB-dry"? Perspectives from patients and physician experts.". J. Urol. (J Urol) 188 (5): 1811–5. doi:10.1016/j.juro.2012.07.044. PMC 3571660. PMID 22999694. 
  7. ^ a b c Can Urol Assoc J 2011;5(5Suppl2):S135-S136; doi:10.5489/cuaj.11183
  8. ^ Eur Urol. 2010 Mar;57(3):488-96. doi: 10.1016/j.eururo.2009.03.080. Epub 2009 Apr 3. link
  9. ^ Campbell-Walsh Urology, Tenth Edition, Chapter 66, Page 1948
  10. ^ Sacco E. [Physiopathology of overactive bladder syndrome]. Urologia. 2012;79(1):24-35. doi:10.5301/RU.2012.8972
  11. ^ a b c Sussmann, DO (September 2007). "Overactive bladder: treatment options in primary care medicine.". The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association 107 (9): 379–385. PMID 17908830. 
  12. ^ Moro, C; Uchiyama, J; Chess-Williams, R (December 2011). "Urothelial/lamina propria spontaneous activity and the role of M3 muscarinic receptors in mediating rate responses to stretch and carbachol". Urology. 76 (6): 1442.e9–15. doi:10.1016/j.urology.2011.08.039. PMID 22001099. 
  13. ^ Sacco E, Bientinesi R. Mirabegron: a review of recent data and its prospects in the management of overactive bladder. Ther Adv Urol. 2012 Dec;4(6):315-24. doi:10.1177/1756287212457114
  14. ^ "FDA approves Botox for loss of bladder control". Reuters. 24 August 2008. 
  15. ^ Chancellor, Michael B; Christopher Smith (August 2011). Botulinum Toxin in Urology. Springer. ISBN 978-3-642-03579-1. 
  16. ^ Sacco E, Paolillo M, Totaro A, Pinto F, Volpe A, Gardi M, Bassi PF. [Botulinum toxin in the treatment of overactive bladder.] Urologia. 2008 January–March;75(1):4-13.
  17. ^ Sacco E, Bientinesi R. Future perspectives in pharmacological treatments options for overactive bladder syndrome. Eur Urol Review 2012;7(2):120-126
  18. ^ Sacco E, Pinto F, Bassi P. Emerging pharmacological targets in overactive bladder therapy: experimental and clinical evidences. Int Urogynecol J Pelvic Floor Dysfunct. 2008 Apr;19(4):583-98. doi:10.1007/s00192-007-0529-z
  19. ^ Sacco E, et al. Investigational drug therapies for overactive bladder syndrome: the potential alternatives to anticholinergics. Urologia. 2009 July–September;76(3):161-177.
  20. ^ a b c Consumer Reports Health Best Buy Drugs (June 2010). "Evaluating Prescription Drugs to Treat: Overactive Bladder - Comparing Effectiveness, Safety, and Price". Best Buy Drugs (Consumer Reports): 10. Retrieved September 18, 2012. , which cites other reports but primarily
  21. ^ a b Stewart, WF; Van Rooyen, JB; Cundiff, GW; Abrams, P; Herzog, AR; Corey, R; Hunt, TL; Wein, AJ (May 2003). "Prevalence and burden of overactive bladder in the United States". World Journal of Urology 20 (6): 327–336. doi:10.1007/s00345-002-0301-4. 
  22. ^ a b Milsom, I; Abrams, P; Cardozo, L; Roberts, RG; Thuroff, J; Wein, AJ (June 2001). "How widespread are the symptoms of an overactive bladder and how are they managed? A population-based prevalence study". BJU Int. 87 (9): 760–6. doi:10.1046/j.1464-410x.2001.02228.x. PMID 11412210. 
  23. ^ a b Tikkinen, KAO; Tammela, TLJ; Rissanen, AM; Valpas, A; Huhtala, H; Auvinen, A (2007). Madersbacher, Stephan, ed. "Is the Prevalence of Overactive Bladder Overestimated? A Population-Based Study in Finland". PLoS ONE 2 (2): e195. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000195. PMC 1805814. PMID 17332843.  open access publication - free to read
  24. ^ Sacco E, Bientinesi R, Marangi F, D'Addessi A, Racioppi M, Gulino G, Pinto F, Totaro A, Bassi P. [Overactive bladder syndrome: the social and economic perspective].Urologia. 2011 Oct-Dec;78(4):241-56. doi: 10.5301/RU.2011.8886. Review.

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