5 Signs You Have an Overactive Bladder (And What to Do About Them)

Having an overactive bladder is far more common than you might think. According to the Urology Care Foundation, up to 30 percent of men and 40 percent of women live with overactive bladder symptoms. 

An overactive bladder (OAB) is a medical condition in which the bladder muscles become overly active, causing frequent urges to urinate and sometimes even incontinence. In this blog post, we’ll discuss five common signs that indicate you may have an overactive bladder and what you can do about them. So, if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, read on to learn more!

Sudden, Strong Urges to Urinate

If you find yourself experiencing sudden and strong urges to urinate, it could be a sign of overactive bladder (OAB). OAB is a condition that causes your bladder to spasm and contract, leading to an urgent need to go to the bathroom.

These strong urges to urinate can come on without warning, meaning you may not have enough time to get to the bathroom before you start leaking. This is known as “urgency incontinence,” and it’s one of the main symptoms of OAB.

In addition to urgency incontinence, sudden, strong urges to urinate can also cause you to have to go more often than usual throughout the day. This means that you may need to plan bathroom breaks around your daily activities or try to find bathrooms when you’re out and about.

Fortunately, there are treatments available for those with OAB that can help reduce these sudden and strong urges. These include medications, lifestyle modifications, pelvic floor exercises, and even surgery.


Waking up multiple times throughout the night to urinate is a common symptom of overactive bladder. It is estimated that up to 70% of people with OAB experience this symptom. This symptom can be caused by an increase in the production of urine during the night, which is triggered by hormones or a decrease in the body’s natural ability to store urine for extended periods of time.

If you are waking up multiple times throughout the night to urinate, you should consider speaking with your doctor about the possibility of having OAB. Your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes, such as reducing your fluid intake before bed, to help reduce the number of times you wake up at night to urinate. They may also recommend medications that can help control the urge to urinate during the night.

Urgency Incontinence 

Wetting accidents are a common sign of overactive bladder. A wetting accident is when urine unintentionally leaks from the bladder due to an uncontrollable urge. This can happen even if you are able to make it to the toilet in time but don’t completely empty your bladder. Wetting accidents can be embarrassing and uncomfortable, especially if they occur in public or at school. If you experience wetting accidents more than once, it could be a sign that you have an overactive bladder.

If you suspect that you might have an overactive bladder, it is important to talk to your doctor and discuss the possibility of treatment options. Overactive bladder can often be managed with lifestyle changes such as reducing your intake of caffeine and alcohol, avoiding bladder irritants, and maintaining a healthy weight. You may also benefit from bladder retraining exercises, which can help reduce the frequency of sudden urges and wetting accidents. Medications may also be prescribed to help manage symptoms.

Feeling Like Your Bladder is Full

With an overactive bladder, individuals can feel like their bladder is full even after they have urinated. This issue is a slightly more rare symptom and should be taken very seriously. That is because it is often the sign of an infection or a more serious medical concern. 

What It Feels Like

This symptom feels like you have a full bladder even though you have just urinated. It can feel like you can’t empty your bladder no matter how much you use the restroom. This issue also creates more obstacles for individuals with incontinence and leakage as they might have trouble gauging when, and how often, to use the restroom. 

Why an Overactive Bladder Causes Feeling  Like Your Bladder is Full

Certain causes of an overactive bladder, such as infection, can make the bladder feel full even when it has just been emptied. If you are experiencing this condition, it’s time to speak with a doctor about finding the cause of your overactive bladder. 

Urinating Frequently

As the name of this symptom would suggest, one of the key symptoms is having to urinate more frequently than most people. This condition is defined as having to urinate more than 8 times in a 24-hour period.  

What It Feels Like

This symptom is less of a sensation and more of a higher frequency of urination. The urination itself might feel normal, but it will happen much more often during any given day.

This symptom can be very hard to track for people who are concerned they have an overactive bladder. Keeping a journal where you tally the amount of times you urinate in a 24-hour period will help determine if this symptom is happening to you. 

Why an Overactive Bladder Causes Frequent Urinating 

This sign is one of the key symptoms of an overactive bladder. Why? Because overactive bladders send the “got to go” feeling to the brain more often than healthy bladders do. That means that individuals with an overactive bladder will be heading to the restroom more often. 

This event can also occur during the night…


Overactive bladders can cause bedwetting for a variety of reasons. Most commonly, though, when we are asleep and the sudden urge to urinate comes on, it can be hard to make it to the bathroom in time. 

What It Feels Like

This symptom can occur in a variety of ways for people with overactive bladders. It can either be related to urgency incontinence and urine can leak as a person is waking up; it can also be related to the urgent need to urinate coming too quickly; and, if the case is severe, individuals can be too exhausted to reach their restroom in time. 

Why an Overactive Bladder Causes Bedwetting

Overactive bladders and bedwetting are tied together due to a variety of factors. We already mentioned that urgency incontinence can cause bedwetting incidents, but the larger medical problems that can lead to an overactive bladder also play a role in creating the conditions that cause this symptom. 

Bedwetting can also be related to our next symptom: bladder spasms…

Bladder Spasms

Bladder spasms, also known by the technical name detrusor contractions, are when the muscle that controls the bladder unexpectedly squeezes. This squeezing can cause a sudden urge to urinate or even cause urine to leak. 

What It Feels Like

This symptom can feel like the urge to urinate coming out of nowhere; there can even be some urine leakage when it occurs. Bladder spasms can also create painful cramps that some people have described as being similar in severity to menstrual cramps. 

Why an Overactive Bladder Causes Bladder Spasms

The muscle that controls the bladder can be subject to a variety of medical conditions that can cause an overactive bladder in adults. These issues include infection, nerve damage, and more serious medical problems. If this muscle becomes compromised by illness, it can lead to bladder spasms. 

If the muscle that controls the bladder spasms, urine can leak unexpectedly… 

Leaking Urine

Another common sign of an overactive bladder is leaking urine. This symptom can happen alongside the sudden urge to urinate, a bladder spasm, or during the night. While it isn’t always a sign of serious medical concerns, it is pressing to see a doctor to avoid depression and social isolation that can come with it. 

What It Feels Like

If leaking urine comes with the sudden urge to urinate, it can feel like an individual couldn’t “hold it” in long enough to reach the restroom. It can also feel like you’ve started to urinate without knowing it, but can be caught and “held in” before it becomes severe.  

Why an Overactive Bladder Causes Leaking Urine

Overactive bladders are sending more urgent signals to the brain. This fact means that people with this condition will have to urinate more frequently. Unfortunately, it can also cause them to leak urine. When this isn’t the case, it’s important to remember that overactive bladders are also caused by infections and injuries that can compromise the ability to hold urine in. 

Leaking urine can also be related to the frequent urge to urinate…

Frequent Urge to Urinate

OAB is a condition characterized by the frequent and sudden urges to urinate that can occur as often as every 10 minutes. This symptom can be extremely disruptive to your daily life, preventing you from participating in activities that require you to remain seated for a period of time.

The causes of frequent urges to urinate vary, but they can be related to damage to the nerves that control the bladder, prostate enlargement, bladder infection or other medical conditions. Certain medications or beverages like alcohol or caffeine can also worsen the symptoms. It is important to speak with your healthcare provider about any changes in your urinary habits that are concerning to you.

If you’re struggling with frequent urges to urinate, talk to your healthcare provider about potential treatments that could help manage your symptoms.

Difficulty Holding Urine

Adults with healthy bladders are able to “hold in” around two cups of urine without any medical side effects. Even though the urge to urinate might be extreme, they can typically hold it in long enough to find a restroom. 

With an overactive bladder, however, this task becomes much more difficult. 

What It Feels Like

For adults with an overactive bladder, holding it in can be a difficult or impossible task. Many individuals describe this as reaching their limit, or breaking point, with holding in urine. Everyone, even people without an overactive bladder, has a limit to how long they can hold in urine, but people with this condition have a much shorter limit. 

Why an Overactive Bladder Causes Difficulty Holding Urine

Due to the combination of sending more urgent signals to the brain and, potentially, having incontinence issues, people with an overactive bladder cannot hold in urine to the extent that other individuals can. 

This inability to hold in much urine is related to having the sensation that your bladder is full even when it isn’t…


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