Overactive bladder, which causes a sudden urge to urinate, is a very common condition, affecting millions of Americans. Estimates vary greatly on precisely how many, however, because people often suffer in silence. Your may get the urge to urinate frequently; sometimes it's so strong that you can’t hold your urine. These symptoms can get in the way of your daily life, affecting work, sleep and social activities.

Common symptoms of overactive bladder include:

  • Sudden urge to urinate
  • Urine leaking (incontinence)
  • Frequent urination (eight or more times in 24 hours)
  • Waking up to use the bathroom (two or more times a night)

Causes of Overactive Bladder

When your bladder fills up, nerves send signals to your brain, which then sends signals back to your bladder, telling your bladder muscles to contract. This causes your bladder to empty. If you have overactive bladder, there may be a problem with nerve signals between your brain and your bladder. Or, the problem may be with the bladder muscles themselves, contracting with a signal from the brain to do so.

Often, the cause is not known. Known causes include:

Spinal cord injury


Multiple sclerosis


Parkinson’s disease

Brain tumor


Drink too much caffeine or alcohol.

You may be at higher risk for overactive bladder if:

You have a nervous system disorder like stroke, Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis

Are older than 75

Have arthritis

Are a woman who's postmenopausal

Are a man with an enlarged prostate

Are overweight

Take a hormone replacement medication

Take certain medications that make you urinate more.