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Urinary Health

Got an Overactive Bladder?

If you have an overactive bladder, don’t despair. There are FDA-approved treatments that can help control your symptoms.

People with overactive bladder have a bladder muscle that squeezes too often or squeezes without warning. This can lead to troubling urinary symptoms such as:

The need to urinate too often (urinary frequency), which is defined as urinating eight or more times a day or two or more times at night (nocturia).

The need to urinate immediately (urinary urgency).

The involuntary leakage of urine as a result of the need to urinate immediately (urge urinary incontinence).

These symptoms affect more than 33 million Americans. Many people don’t seek treatment, possibly because they’re embarrassed or don’t know about treatment options. In the United States, 30 percent of men and 40 percent of women live with overactive bladder symptoms.

The good news is that there are therapies for these symptoms. They include oral medications, a patch or gel applied to the skin, the first over-the-counter (OTC) treatment for women with overactive bladder, and bladder injections for patients with more severe symptoms.

Causes

Some known causes of overactive bladder include neurological disorders, such as spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and stroke. Often, however, the cause is unknown.

“Some conditions—such as urinary tract infection, early pregnancy, uncontrolled diabetes mellitus, prostate disease and bladder tumors—have symptoms similar to overactive bladder and should be excluded before a proper diagnosis can be made. Also, certain medications, especially diuretics, may cause overactive bladder symptoms,” says Suresh Kaul, M.D, M.P.H., a medical team leader for urology in FDA’s Division of Bone, Reproductive and Urologic Products.

The risk of overactive bladder increases with age. “This condition especially affects elderly women,” says Olivia Easley, M.D., a senior medical officer with the FDA Division.

Options for Consumers

There are several treatment options for overactive bladder that help the bladder muscle relax and stop it from contracting at the wrong times. Easley says that anticholinergics are a widely used class of medications for overactive bladder. These drugs contain oxybutynin, tolterodine, fesoterodine or solifenacin, and are believed to work by inhibiting involuntary bladder contractions.

Recently, FDA approved Myrbetriq (mirabegron), a medication that improves the bladder’s ability to store urine by relaxing the bladder muscle during filling. (Side effects of Myrbetriq include increased blood pressure and urinary tract infection. In certain situations, Myrbetriq may increase your chances of not being able to empty your bladder on your own, for example, if you are also taking other medicines to treat your overactive bladder.)

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