Are bladder problems just a normal part of aging?
Although overactive bladder symptoms are more common as people get older, it
can happen at any age. Urinary incontinence is not a normal part of that
process. If you find you often feel an urgent and overwhelming need to
urinate, are making too many trips to the bathroom, and sometimes have
leakages, you may have a bladder problem and should contact your GP for
advice and treatment.
How often is ‘too often’ to urinate during the day and also at night?
Most adults urinate four to seven times a day and only have to get up once
during the night, or not at all, to use the bathroom. If you find that you
urinate eight or more times in a 24-hour period, and get up to urinate two
or more times a night, then you may have a bladder problem and should talk
to your GP about possible causes.
Are there different types of bladder problems?
Yes, there are several types of urinary incontinence. These include:
Urge Incontinence is when you have an urgent and uncontrollable desire
to pass urine, caused by a sudden squeezing of the muscle in the wall of
Stress Incontinence is when urine leaks because of sudden pressure on
your lower stomach muscles, such as when you cough or lift something.
Overflow Incontinence is the uncontrollable leakage of small amounts of
urine caused by an overfilled bladder.
Functional Incontinence can occur when you just can’t make it to the
bathroom on time because of a physical ailment, such as arthritis, that
makes it hard to move around.
Reflex Incontinence can occur when a person has little or no control
over their bladder because they can’t feel the urge to urinate as a
result of spinal or neurological injury or disease.
Mixed Type Incontinence is when some people have more than one type of
Is overactive bladder treatable?5
Yes, OAB is very treatable and is not just something you need to accept, but
it requires commitment from you and your doctor. Overactive bladder symptoms
can be managed successfully by training your bladder, strengthening your
pelvic floor muscles and, if needed, by medication.
What is bladder training?11
Bladder training, for those with an overactive bladder, involves learning to
delay trips to the toilet when you feel the urge. You start by delaying for
short periods of time while gradually building up to longer periods of time
between urges. For example, if you usually urinate every hour, you can delay
that trip by fifteen minutes using relaxation techniques or by distracting
yourself with a book or crossword puzzle. Then gradually lengthen the time
between when you urinate (for example, by 30 minutes) until you're urinating
every 3 to 4 hours. Bladder training is effective in helping you regain
control over your bladder but you must be patient as it can take from three
weeks to three months to see results.
I’m too embarrassed to talk to my doctor, what should I do?
Overactive bladder (OAB) is more common than you think - Approximately 2.3 million people in the UK over the age of 40 may be affected by OAB. Unfortunately, a lot of people are
too self-conscious and embarrassed to talk about their bladder problem and
may wait several years before approaching their doctor for help. It’s
important to remember that OAB is a medical condition where the bladder
squeezes uncontrollably. It is not your fault and it’s not something you
have to live with. OAB is very treatable so take that first step and contact
Sometimes I accidentally leak urine. What can I do?
There are several things you can do to help avoid accidents.
Certain drinks, for example, can make urinary symptoms worse and those are
typically caffeinated drinks, alcohol, fizzy drinks and citrus fruit juice.
Spicy foods may also irritate the bladder so try to cut down or cut out
these potential OAB triggers. If you find that you regularly leak urine you
can wear a discreet pad in your underwear for peace of mind. These come in
many shapes and sizes and absorbency levels. If you’re embarrassed buying
them in a shop, you can order them online instead. You should consult your
doctor about any accidents you’re experiencing.
Sometimes I leak a little urine during sex. What can I do?
Try not to drink anything for an hour or more before sex and make a quick
trip to the bathroom to empty your bladder before slipping between the
sheets. For peace of mind, you can use a ‘feel dry’ protective bed sheet
just in case.
Is there one definitive cause of overactive bladder?2,3
No, there is no single cause of an overactive bladder (OAB). The
overwhelming urge to urinate, which is one of the leading symptoms of OAB,
is as a result of involuntary bladder muscle contractions (squeezing) and
this can be triggered by a number of factors.10,12