Overactive Bladder & Urge Urinary Incontinence

The term “overactive bladder” is sometimes used to refer to any of the following conditions:

  • Frequency (more than 8 voids in each 24 hours)
  • Urgency (a powerful urge to urinate, that is difficult to put off)
  • Nocturia (waking up twice or more at night to urinate)
  • Urge incontinence (leakage of urine associated with an urge to urinate, or not making it to the bathroom in time)

When leakage of urine is accompanied by a sensation of the need to urinate, or the impending sense that a large leak is going to happen, this is often what is known as urge incontinence. Unlike stress incontinence, this usually represents a bladder "squeeze" or contraction, occurring at an unwelcome time. Often, people with urge incontinence also have increased urinary frequency, have to rush to the bathroom frequently, or wake up more than once or twice at night to urinate. You may also notice severe urgency and leakage when driving into the driveway, placing the key in the front door, running water or with temperature changes.

These are very common conditions, and their impact can vary widely. Their causes are less well understood than in stress incontinence. Occasionally, there may be an underlying reason, like neurologic or inflammatory conditions; in most cases, no particular cause can be identified. Whether or not an underlying cause is identified, the effects of overactive bladder and urge incontinence can be significant.

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