What is Overactive Bladder?

Overactive bladder - with symptoms of urinary frequency, urgency, and accidental loss of urine - is a medical condition that affects 1 in 11 American adults. It can occur in men and women of all ages, but becomes more common with advancing age. However, overactive bladder is not normal at any age, and effective treatment is available.

The symptoms of overactive bladder
  • Urinary frequency - often having to go to the bathroom more than 8 times in 24 hours
  • - Frequency at night (nocturia) may include waking up to urinate 2 or more times at night
  • Urgency - a strong and sudden desire to urinate
  • Accidental loss of urine - associated with a simultaneous sudden and controllable urge to urinate (urge incontinence)

These symptoms occur when the large muscle of the urinary bladder known as the detrusor muscle is inappropriately active. Instead of staying at rest as urine fills the bladder, the detrusor spasms or contracts when the bladder is incompletely filled. This spasm causes a sudden and sometimes overwhelming urge to urinate even when the bladder isn't completely full.

Sometimes people with this condition change their behavior to try to cope with their symptoms. For example, they may:

  • habitually create a "map" of toilet locations, planning activities based on knowing where toilets can be easily reached
  • carry an empty container in the car in case of the need to urinate while traveling long distances
  • wear dark and baggy clothing to disguise disposable pads or the signs of a urinary accident.
Many people engage in these "secret" behaviors because they are reluctant to discuss their symptoms. They may not even realize that effective treatment is available.

Seeing a doctor for the symptoms of overactive bladder is a critical first step in obtaining treatment. Only a doctor can determine whether the symptoms are due to overactive bladder or to another type of bladder problem. If overactive bladder is diagnosed, the doctor may prescribe tolterodine tartrate tablets (DETROLÔ). This medication reduces the frequency and intensity of bladder contractions, thereby decreasing the number of times a person goes to the bathroom. It is the treatment prescribed most often for overactive bladder.

Doctors treat thousands of people with overactive bladder every day. If you (or someone you love) is experiencing urinary frequency, urgency, or accidental loss of urine, treatment may offer the possibility of returning to a more normal life - a chance to regain control of your bladder and the rest of your everyday routine.

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For more information on overactive bladder, visit:

American Foundation for Urologic Disease

American Medical Women's Association - Overactive Bladder Initiative

National Association for Continence

National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse

Pharmacia & Upjohn - Overactivebladder.com

The Simon Foundation for Continence

WellnessWeb - Access to Continence Care and Treatment

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