Where's the Washroom?

Understanding Overactive Bladder Syndrome

November 2016

Are multiple trips to the toilet keeping you up at night? Do you experience sudden urges to urinate that are difficult to control? You may have an overactive bladder. It’s estimated that one in five Canadians over the age of 35 suffer with an overactive bladder.

In normal bladder function, the muscles of the bladder naturally contract when nerves signal the brain that the bladder is full. In contrast, muscles in an overactive bladder contract involuntarily, even when urine levels are low. This leads to the frequent, and often intense, need to urinate. Individuals with overactive bladder may also experience urge incontinence, involuntary wetting following an intense urge to urinate.

Helpful tips for Managing Overactive Bladder

It’s important to talk to your doctor if you have symptoms of overactive bladder, as it can result from a multitude of causes, including medication use and other health concerns. Below are tips from our team of urologists for improving your overall bladder health and minimizing episodes of incontinence.

  1. Quit smoking. Nicotine can cause increased bladder contractions, which may lead to increased urge incontinency. Also, increased coughing, caused by smoking, can weaken pelvic floor muscles and increase incontinency.

  2. Limit caffeine and alcohol. Caffeinated and alcoholic beverages can irritate the bladder causing more bladder contractions and greater urgency and frequency of urination. Also, caffeine is a natural diuretic, meaning it causes the kidneys to produce more urine, leading to more frequent need to urinate.

  3. Maintain a healthy weight. Extra body weight can increase the symptoms of overactive bladder.

  4. Strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. Stronger pelvic floor muscles are better able to contract and prevent incontinence. The best way to strengthen these muscles is through Kegel exercises.

Additional Resources

Kegel Exercises, vesia [Alberta Bladder Centre]
Bladder Diary, vesia [Alberta Bladder Centre]
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