Skip to main navigation Skip to main content Skip to footer For Medicare For Providers For Brokers For Employers Español For Individuals & Families: For Individuals & Families Medical Dental Other Supplemental Explore coverage through work How to Buy Health Insurance Types of Dental Insurance Open Enrollment vs. Special Enrollment See all topics Shop for Medicare plans Member Guide Find a Doctor Log in to myCigna
Home Knowledge Center Wellness Library Overactive Bladder

Overactive Bladder

Condition Basics

What is overactive bladder?

With overactive bladder, you have many strong, sudden urges to urinate during the day and night. You can get these urges even when you have only a little bit of urine in your bladder. You may not be able to hold your urine until you get to the toilet. This can lead to urine leakage, called incontinence.

Even without incontinence, overactive bladder can make it hard to do the things you enjoy. The need to drop everything and race to the toilet can disrupt your life. And if you leak, even if it's only a little bit, it can be embarrassing.

Overactive bladder can cause other problems too. Hurrying to the toilet can lead to falls and broken bones. Overactive bladder can also cause sleeping problems, depression, and urinary tract infections.

Many people are too shy to talk about their bladder problems. But overactive bladder can get better with treatment. Don't be afraid to talk with your doctor about how to control your overactive bladder.

What causes it?

Overactive bladder may be caused by bladder problems, spinal cord injury, or pelvic surgery. But in many cases, doctors don't know what causes it.

Some medicines can cause overactive bladder. Talk with your doctor about the medicines you're taking to find out if they could affect your bladder. But don't stop taking your medicine without talking to your doctor first.

What are the symptoms?

The main symptoms of overactive bladder are:

  • An urgent need to urinate.
  • The need to urinate often.
  • Waking up to urinate 2 or more times a night.
  • The need to urinate even if you have just gone to the toilet.
  • Taking many trips to the toilet only to urinate just a little bit each time.
  • Leaking urine when you have the urge to urinate.

You may have some or all of these symptoms.

How is it diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask you about your past health. You'll have a physical exam and be asked about any symptoms. Depending on your symptoms, you may have a pelvic exam. Or if your symptoms could be caused by prostate problems, you may have a rectal exam.

You'll be asked what kinds of fluids you drink and how much. Your doctor will also want to know how often you urinate, how much, and if you leak. It may help to write down these things in a bladder diary for 3 or 4 days before you see your doctor.

You'll also be asked about any medicines you take.

Your doctor will check a sample of your urine. Depending on the results, or if your doctor thinks that your problem may have more than one cause, you may have more tests.

How is overactive bladder treated?

Things to try at home

The first step in treatment will be to try some things at home.

  • Pelvic floor exercises (Kegels). They help strengthen some of the muscles that control the flow of urine. It may help to work with a physical therapist who has special training in pelvic muscle exercises.
  • Bladder training. This helps you slowly increase how long you can wait before you have to urinate.
  • Cut back on caffeine, carbonated drinks, and alcohol.
  • If it bothers you to get up at night to urinate, cut down on fluids before bed. But don't cut down on fluids at other times of the day. You need them to stay healthy.
  • At night, if you have trouble getting to the toilet in time, clear a path from your bed to the bathroom. Or you could put a portable toilet by your bed.
  • Get to and stay at a healthy weight.
  • Prevent constipation by eating a healthy, high-fiber diet.

Medicine

Some medicines can cause this problem. Your doctor will check to see if any medicines you take might be causing your symptoms.

Sometimes medicines can help. This includes topical estrogen if thinning of vaginal tissue (atrophy) is a problem. Or medicine can help if an enlarged prostate is the problem.

If your symptoms really bother you or affect your quality of life, your doctor may suggest that you try medicine along with bladder training and exercises. These medicines include:

  • Drugs that calm the bladder muscles, such as darifenacin, fesoterodine, and oxybutynin. They may cause side effects like dry mouth and constipation.
  • Drugs that help the bladder store more urine, such as mirabegron and vibegron. Side effects may include increased blood pressure, headaches, and a runny nose.

Other treatments

For severe overactive bladder or severe urge incontinence that hasn't been controlled by exercises or medicine, treatments include:

  • Botulinum toxin injections. You may need to get bladder injections every 3 to 12 months. Side effects may include having pain when you urinate, not being able to urinate easily, and getting a urinary tract infection (UTI).
  • Electrical stimulation.
    • Sacral nerve stimulation (SNS) involves placing an electrical stimulator under your skin. It sends pulses to the sacral nerve in your lower back. This nerve plays a role in bladder storage and emptying.
    • Percutaneous tibial nerve stimulation (PTNS) involves regularly scheduled sessions where mild electrical stimulation is given through a needle placed behind the ankle. This is done to help reduce symptoms.
  • Surgery to treat an enlarged prostate, to make the bladder bigger (augmentation cystoplasty), or to make another way to store and pass urine (urinary diversion).

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.

© 1995-2024 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

Related Links

Urinary Incontinence in Men Urinary Incontinence in Women

<cipublic-spinner variant="large"><span>Loading…</span></cipublic-spinner>

Page Footer

I want to...

Get an ID card File a claim View my claims and EOBs Check coverage under my plan See prescription drug list Find an in-network doctor, dentist, or facility Find a form Find 1095-B tax form information View the Cigna Glossary Contact Cigna

Audiences

Individuals and Families Medicare Employers Brokers Providers

Secure Member Sites

myCigna member portal Health Care Provider portal Cigna for Employers Client Resource Portal Cigna for Brokers

The Cigna Group Information

About Cigna Healthcare Company Profile Careers Newsroom Investors Suppliers The Cigna Group Third Party Administrators International Evernorth

 Cigna. All rights reserved.

Privacy Legal Product Disclosures Cigna Company Names Customer Rights Accessibility Non-Discrimination Notice Language Assistance [PDF] Report Fraud Sitemap Cookie Settings

Disclaimer

Individual and family medical and dental insurance plans are insured by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company (CHLIC), Cigna HealthCare of Arizona, Inc., Cigna HealthCare of Illinois, Inc., Cigna HealthCare of Georgia, Inc., Cigna HealthCare of North Carolina, Inc., Cigna HealthCare of South Carolina, Inc., and Cigna HealthCare of Texas, Inc. Group health insurance and health benefit plans are insured or administered by CHLIC, Connecticut General Life Insurance Company (CGLIC), or their affiliates (see a listing of the legal entities that insure or administer group HMO, dental HMO, and other products or services in your state). Accidental Injury, Critical Illness, and Hospital Care plans or insurance policies are distributed exclusively by or through operating subsidiaries of Cigna Corporation, are administered by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company, and are insured by either (i) Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company (Bloomfield, CT); (ii) Life Insurance Company of North America (“LINA”) (Philadelphia, PA); or (iii) New York Life Group Insurance Company of NY (“NYLGICNY”) (New York, NY), formerly known as Cigna Life Insurance Company of New York. The Cigna name, logo, and other Cigna marks are owned by Cigna Intellectual Property, Inc. LINA and NYLGICNY are not affiliates of Cigna.

All insurance policies and group benefit plans contain exclusions and limitations. For availability, costs and complete details of coverage, contact a licensed agent or Cigna sales representative. This website is not intended for residents of New Mexico.

Selecting these links will take you away from Cigna.com to another website, which may be a non-Cigna website. Cigna may not control the content or links of non-Cigna websites. Details