OAB FAQs Header


Today we're answering your most frequently asked questions about Overactive Bladder, also commonly known as OAB. Read on to learn the ins and outs of this condition.

1. What exactly is OAB?

The hallmark of OAB is urgency. That is, when the need to urinate is noted, it is felt with a severity that makes it difficult to postpone. OAB may be accompanied by other symptoms as well, like getting up at night, leaking on the way to the bathroom, or going frequently.

2. What are the symptoms of OAB? How are they different from other types of incontinence?

The defining symptom of OAB is urgency, or the inability to postpone urination. Urge incontinence is similar, but involves the involuntary loss of urine associated with an urge.

3. Is OAB simply a part of aging?

No! While OAB is more common as we age, it should not be considered "normal". It can have a terrible impact on quality of life and should be treated.

4. What medical tests may be performed to diagnose OAB?

Some doctors may perform a urine analysis to look for blood, infection and sugar. Depending on the findings from your urine analysis and your medical history, additional blood work may be performed.

5. Does OAB affect men as well as women?

OAB can affect both men and women, however it is slightly more common in women.

6. What causes OAB?

No one thing is the single cause. In some cases the bladder nerves may be responsible. In other cases, the bladder muscle itself may be the culprit.

7. Can kegel exercises help with OAB?

While Kegel exercises have long been touted for incontinence issues, they are not for everyone. A physical therapist can help determine if kegels will work for you and will coach you on how to properly perform them.

8. How can a prostate problem contribute to OAB?

If the prostate obstructs the bladder outlet and creates elevated pressures during voiding, the bladder muscle reacts and undergoes changes. Part of these changes may make the bladder muscle more "irritable" and result in more frequent and urgent voids. An enlarged prostate may also prevent the bladder from fully emptying, hence contributing to frequent signals to urinate.

9. Does menopause have a role in contributing to OAB?

Yes. The vagina and urethra have estrogen receptors. When estrogen levels are low, as they are in menopause, these tissues may thin and become irritated which may aggravate OAB symptoms. Local estrogen administered vaginally can make a difference for some women.

10. Can an illness or bladder infection cause OAB?

Bladder infections usually do not cause OAB. Once the infection clears, the symptoms usually get better.

11. Could my weight or diet be contributing to my OAB?

Obesity can cause bladder problems like OAB and leakage. Think of it like being pregnant and having all the extra weight bearing down on top of the bladder. Certain foods or drinks may also contribute to OAB. Acidic foods are usually the most offensive, but you  can often learn your personal triggers by keeping a bladder diary.

12. Can prescription or over-the-counter medications contribute to my OAB?

Yes, they can make OAB worse. Especially diuretics and those containing caffeine.

13. What is bladder retraining? Will it help me control my OAB?

Bladder retraining is progressively prolonging time between using the restroom on a structured schedule in order to enlarge the bladder's functional capacity, and may help alleviate some OAB symptoms, especially frequent urination.

14. Can a condition like Multiple Sclerosis (MS) or Diabetes contribute to OAB and will the urgency/frequency stop with treatment?

Both MS and diabetes can damage nerves, which can result in symptoms in the urinary tract. Additionally, poorly controlled diabetes can result in the loss of sugar in the urine, which can cause people to produce a greater volume of urine than normal (polyuria). The extra volume may aggravate or mimic OAB.

15. Can childbirth cause OAB?

Trauma from childbirth can weaken the pelvic floor muscles, and can cause bladder symptoms ranging from OAB to stress urinary incontinence.

16. I experience chronic constipation. What impact could this have on my OAB?

Your colon and bladder are next-door neighbors. If your colon is full, it can actually compress your bladder and cause bladder problems.

17. If I restrict my fluid intake, will it help my OAB symptoms?

You should never restrict your fluids to the point you are dehydrated. However, reducing the amount of caffeinated beverages you drink can make a difference, as caffeine can irritate the bladder.

18. I have an enlarged (non-cancerous) prostate. My urologist indicated that this was the main cause of my overactive bladder experiences. He suggested an operation to diminish the size of the prostate. Is this the best way to regain total control of my bladder?

You should discuss with your doctor ways in which you may be able to address this issue. If your bladder outlet is obstructed for this reason, relief of that blockage may help alleviate the symptoms.

19. What can be done for the patient who leaks only with a change in position, such as when getting out of bed?

It depends on the cause. The leak could be from stress urinary incontinence or an overactive bladder muscle. Talk to your doctor to see what options may be available to you.

This article is copywritten by the National Association for Continence and is used by permission and legally licensed by Urovant. For more information, visit nafc.org.