Overactive Bladder (OAB): Symptoms & Signs

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Medically Reviewed on 5/30/2017

Symptoms of overactive bladder (OAB) result from sudden and involuntary contractions of the bladder muscles, leading to a

In addition to urinary urgency and incontinence, symptoms of overactive bladder can include

  • urinary frequency (having to urinate often), and
  • nocturia (urinating frequently at night).

Overactive bladder can affect anyone but is more common in older people. However, it is not considered to be a normal part of aging. Because there are number of causes of overactive bladder, other symptoms may occur that are related to the underlying cause (for example, stroke, dementia, Parkinson's disease, diabetes).

Causes of overactive bladder (OAB)

Overactive bladder is caused by inappropriate contraction of the bladder muscle regardless of the amount of urine in he bladder. In most cases of overactive bladder, the exact cause is not known. However, OAB can result from problems with the nervous system. The most common abnormalities of the nervous system that cause overactive bladder are strokes, spinal cord injury, back problems like herniated disc or degenerative disc disease, Parkinson's disease, dementia, multiple sclerosis, and diabetic neuropathy. Other conditions that can cause OAB symptoms are urinary tract infection, bladder stones, urethral strictures, benign prostatic enlargement (BPH), or bladder tumors.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/30/2017

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