Overactive Bladder: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatments | MedStar Health

Overactive bladder (OAB) is not a disease, but a set of symptoms. Patients with OAB experience a sudden, uncontrollable urge to urinate, often along with incontinence. They tend to urinate often throughout the day and night.

This condition is common, affecting approximately 33 million Americans. In fact, it likely impacts even more, but many patients who experience OAB are reluctant to seek help out of embarrassment or the mistaken belief that nothing can be done to help.

This can have a negative impact on quality of life, and there is no need to “suffer silently.” MedStar Health urologists understand the challenges involved in living with an overactive bladder, and they can provide the expertise and technology to ensure patients find relief.

Symptoms and causes

There can be many different causes of OAB, including urinary tract infection, nerve damage, illness, side effect of medication, or, sometimes, the cause is unknown. The most common symptoms include:

  • A strong sense of urgency is the most characteristic symptom of OAB. This strong sense of “needing to go” right away may or may not be accompanied by leakage
  • Incontinence
  • Needing to urinate frequently
  • Needing to get up during the night to urinate

Both men and women can experience OAB. Men who have had prostate-related conditions and post-menopausal women seem to have increased risk of OAB.  Young men and women can also have symptoms of OAB for a variety of reasons. People who have diseases affecting the brain or spinal cord, such as stroke and multiple sclerosis, are also at higher risk for OAB. 


To diagnosis overactive bladder and plan appropriate treatment, MedStar Health urologists may seek the following:

  • Medical history, including current medications
  • Urine culture
  • Bladder scan or ultrasound
  • Cystoscopy: A tiny tube with a camera is inserted into the bladder to rule out possible causes
  • Urodynamic testing: MedStar Georgetown is one of the only facilities in the area to offer advanced video urodynamic testing to fully assess the urinary tract, including kidneys and bladder, to get a comprehensive picture of urinary function


Overactive bladder treatment will be tailored to each patient’s lifestyle and condition.

Treatment options may include:

  • Dietary fluid changes
  • Behavior modification
  • Medicine
  • Treating the bladder with Botox
  • Inserting a bladder pacemaker
  • Nerve stimulation
  • Other office-based procedures

There are a wide range of management options available to treat OAB. Restore your ability to travel, attend events comfortably, and make it through the fasten-seatbelts phase on the airplane. MedStar Health urology experts can help you—not your bladder— take control of your life again.

Our providers

Ryan Cleary is a urology and robotic surgery specialist with MedStar Health in Baltimore Maryland.

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