Overactive Bladder (OAB)

  • Medical Author: Pamela I. Ellsworth, MD
  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Quick GuideUrinary Incontinence: Foods and Drinks That Make You Gotta Go

Urinary Incontinence: Foods and Drinks That Make You Gotta Go

What are overactive bladder symptoms?

The symptoms of an overactive bladder include frequent urination (urinating eight or more times per day), urgency of urination (sudden, compelling desire to void that is difficult to defer) with or without urgency urinary incontinence, and nocturia (awakening one or more times at night to urinate). Overactive bladder may cause significant social, psychological, occupational, domestic, physical, sexual, and financial problems. Again, these symptoms should not be considered a normal part of aging.

How do health-care professionals diagnose overactive bladder?

The diagnosis of overactive bladder is based on the presence of symptoms, while excluding other conditions that may cause similar symptoms. This is based on history, physical examination, and a urine test. Waking up to urinate one or more times at night, urinary frequency (urinating at least eight times daily), urinary urgency, and urinary incontinence are all important clues in evaluating someone suspected of having overactive bladder.

In addition to a general physical examination, a pelvic exam in women (to assess for dryness, atrophy, inflammation, infection, stress incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse [seeing a bulge in the vagina particularly with increasing abdominal pressure by straining]) and a prostate examination in men (to assess for size, tenderness, texture, and/or masses) are helpful in excluding other contributing conditions.

Urine analysis (UA) to assess for infection, blood cells in the urine, and high levels of glucose (sugar) in the urine is recommended. Occasionally, urine cytology (to look for cancer cells in the bladder) is sometimes advised in individuals undergoing evaluation of urinary incontinence and overactive bladder, particularly individuals with blood cells in the urine (hematuria). Bladder ultrasound measurement of the amount of urine left in the bladder after urination (called post-void residual) may also provide additional information about the cause of urinary incontinence (obstruction to urine flow or weak bladder muscle) but is not needed in all individuals with OAB symptoms.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/14/2016

Subscribe to MedicineNet's Women's Health Newsletter

By clicking Submit, I agree to the MedicineNet's Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of MedicineNet's subscriptions at any time.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors