What Can I Do About an Overactive Bladder?

William Badger, MD, is an urologist visiting monthly at Page Hospital.

Question: I use the bathroom more than 10 times a day lately. Should I see a doctor?

Answer: If frequent urination and the need to know where the nearest bathroom is located whenever you leave your home bother you, you are not alone as this is a problem affecting one in eight women.

On average, women should feel the urge to urinate every 3-4 hours during the day or 6-7 times in a 24-hour period. Depending on when the urge to urinate is greatest, there may be different explanations for why you feel the urge to urinate so frequently.

The bladder can overact and give the sensation that it needs to empty prior to being even moderately full. In other cases, you may have a bladder infection or bladder stones or bladder lesions that activate the urge to urinate.

In general, therapy begins with learning to understand how your bladder is functioning by recording a bladder diary.

A bladder diary is a record of all of the fluid intake and output over time, usually three 24-hour periods. Because the kidneys make urine every hour of every day, the bladder’s dysfunction may even be due to the overproduction of urine at inconvenient times, such as the middle of the night. A bladder diary will help elucidate the bladder and kidney function.

Once you have recorded a bladder diary, your doctor may have you begin a bladder retraining regimen. This regimen is designed to help you reteach your bladder when it is appropriate to feel the urge to urinate. Such conservative measures are very effective in most people. Keep in mind that events in your life can affect bladder function – just ask a physically well conditioned Olympic athlete who is nearing a competition and is frantically searching for the bathroom.

If conservative therapies do not work, there are other effective treatments, including medications and neurostimulation. You do not have to suffer with being tethered to the nearest bathroom when you leave the house as urinary frequency can be treated.

If you are urinating frequently, visit with your health care provider about your concern. You may think it is just part of life, but it does not have to be.