The average adult female urinates up to 8 times per day. If you are urinating more frequently than this, your bladder is considered to be overactive. The condition can manifest as urgency to urinate, urge incontinence (UUI), frequency incontinence and nocturia (needing to pee multiple times during the night). Any combination of these symptoms can be a sign of overactive bladder (OAB). Those who suffer from OAB need to know where the bathroom is at all times and even then, there is a risk they won’t make it. The bladder muscle (detrusor) contracts prematurely, without warning, causing a sudden urgent need to urinate. It can be difficult or impossible to control this urge. Unlike stress incontinence, this condition is not triggered by exertion.
Whereas the exact cause is not implicitly known, it is believed to be more neurologic in nature. Episodes of overactive bladder can be triggered by factors such as excessive coffee or alcohol consumption. Age is also a contributing factor, however overactive bladder should not be considered a normal sign of ageing. Overactive bladder is clinically defined as an overactive bladder in the absence of any of any pathology (disabilities, illnesses, infections or injuries that can cause OAB symptoms).
If you suffer from multiple sclerosis (MS) or have a spinal cord injury, you may suffer the same symptoms as OAB, however, Reflex incontinence (neurogenic bladder) is the term given in this case. Functional incontinence also produces similar symptoms to OAB but is unrelated to your bladder and urinary tract, for example, if you have Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or have a stroke. Function incontinence is also the term used to describe incontinence caused by conditions that produce excessive urine such as diabetes. Functional incontinence can also be a side effect of infection, medication or medical treatment. You can read more on Function and reflex incontinence on the page for those conditions.