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The Best Ways to Treat Overactive Bladder

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Overactive bladder is a common bladder control problem in which a frequent and intense urge to urinate may be accompanied by wetting accidents. Approximately 33 million Americans are affected by overactive bladder, and the risk increases with age. Contrary to popular belief, men are just as likely as women to develop overactive bladder, although women are more likely to experience wetting accidents. 

In men, the symptoms of overactive bladder can be mistakenly attributed to benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). In fact, some men suffer from both overactive bladder and BPH. Bladder control problems may also be caused by stress incontinence, a leakage of urine brought on by activities such as coughing, sneezing, laughing, or exercising. Because stress incontinence can overlap with both overactive bladder and BPH, proper evaluation by a physician is essential for an accurate diagnosis. If overactive bladder is the problem, a variety of effective treatments are available. 

The best program for someone with overactive bladder involves: 


  • eliminating bladder irritants
  • drinking four to eight glasses of water a day (because restricting fluid intake results in concentrated urine that can irritate the bladder)
  • strengthening the pelvic floor muscles
  • retraining the bladder
  • taking medication 


A complete bladder-training program can take as long as 60 days to produce results. The goals are to be able to hold about 1 pint of urine in the bladder and to urinate every two to four hours during the day. 

To begin the program, keep a detailed bladder control diary for at least 72 hours. The diary helps you keep track of what you drink, how much you drink, how many times you urinate and how much each time (a minimal, moderate, or large amount), whether you felt a strong, sudden urge to urinate, and what activity was interrupted by the need to urinate. Wetting accidents are also noted. 

Kegel exercises are performed daily. These exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and help reconnect the transmission of nerve impulses between the bladder and the brain. 

To retrain the bladder, when you feel the urge to urinate, try to hold the urine for five minutes before going to the bathroom. The pelvic floor exercises will help with this. Each week, add five minutes to the length of time the urine is held before going to the bathroom. 

Prescription drugs for overactive bladder relax the bladder muscle and decrease its sensitivity to irritants. By reducing the sensation of urgency, the drugs also provide more time to get to the toilet.   

Posted in Prostate Disorders on February 10, 2011

Medical Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute for the advice of a physician. Click here for additional information: Johns Hopkins Health Alerts Disclaimer

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