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Overactive Bladder, What Is It?

Overactive bladder, irritable bladder, detrusor over-activity what do these terms really mean to you.

What is an overactive bladder?

First let's start with a review of the bladder. The bladder is a hollow organ with strong smooth muscle walls that acts as a receptacle for the storage of urine.

Yes, there is a muscle that forms the walls of the bladder. This muscle is called the detrusor muscle. This muscle remains in a relaxed stated when the bladder is filling with urine. When the bladder fills with approximately 150-200 mL of urine you will feel the first urge to urinate. The urge is caused by a stretch to the walls of the bladder.

This stretch stimulates receptors in the wall of the bladder. A message is sent to the spinal cord which in turn sends a message to the detrusor muscle to contract. If the bladder is not full and we resist the urge to urinate our urethral sphincters and our pelvic floor contract. These contractions send a signal to the spinal cord which in turns sends a message to the detrusor to stop contracting. At this point the urge to urinate passes and we go about our daily tasks.

The bladder is capable of holding approximately 600mL of urine. When the bladder has met capacity and we are ready to urinate. The detrusor contracts while the urethral sphincters and pelvic floor relax thus allowing the urine to pass freely through the urethra.

Woah...pretty complicated.

Below is a video to help explain/demonstrate the process.

Overactive Bladder

When people suffer from an “overactive bladder”. The bladder muscle (detrusor) will contract even when the bladder is not full. This gives a person a sudden urge to urinate. This symptom is considered Urinary Urgency. Urge Urinary Incontinence is described as when the urge is so strong the person experiences leakage before they can get to the bathroom.

5 Symptoms of An Overactive Bladder

1. Sudden Urge to Urinate- If you suffer from an overactive bladder you will sense a sudden, intense urge to urinate. At some times the urge is so strong you are unable to make it to the bathroom in time. It can happen at any time during the day. It can occur if you have not had much to drink or if you just recently emptied your bladder.

2. Urinating too often- You should not urinate greater than 7-8 times during the waking hours of the day. If you are making frequent visits to the bathroom that exceed 8 times you may be suffering from an overactive bladder. Something else to notice if you are making more than 8 trips to the bathroom is the amount of urine released. If you feel as if your bladder is full but only release a few drops you may be suffering from an overactive bladder.

3. Waking to Urinate- We have all had to wake during the night to urinate at one point in our life. Waking 1-2 times to urinate is a common occurrence especially as we age. If you are waking more than 2-3 times in the night due to a strong urge to urinate, an overactive bladder could be the culprit.

4. Accidents- Accidents are described as any involuntary loss of urine. It can be a few drops or a complete loss of bladder control. Any involuntary loss of urine is a cause for further investigation. If you cannot control the loss of urine when you feel a strong urge or cannot stop yourself from leaking on the way to the bathroom you could be dealing with an overactive bladder..

5. Lifestyle Changes- If you find yourself changing the normal flow of your day to accommodate for your bladder you could be suffering from an overactive bladder. Other signs of lifestyle changes include avoiding social situations, mapping out where bathrooms are in public places and urinating "just in case" to avoid or prevent accidents during your day.

If you feel you are suffering from an overactive bladder or have questions contact us at (806) 467-81 81 or via email at


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