10 Myths About Overactive Bladder

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Linda Wasmer Andrews on June 24, 2021
  • Woman talking to doctor
    Popular Myths, Busted
    It's true: Overactive bladder isn't great fodder for dinner table conversation. Yet the fact that we don't talk about it may explain why there are so many misconceptions about such a common and bothersome condition. Have you fallen for any of these myths?
  • Couple laughing
    Myth 1: Overactive bladder makes you leak when you laugh hard.
    Truth: Overactive bladder involves sudden, strong urges to urinate, which sometimes cause accidents. You go eight or more times a day, and you may also get up to urinate two or more times a night. Leaking urine when you laugh, cough, or exercise is a different condition, called stress incontinence. It's possible to have both conditions, however.
  • Female and male sign on toilet door
    Myth 2: Needing to go all the time is a normal part of getting older.
    Truth: Living in the bathroom isn't normal at any age. Overactive bladder grows more common as people get older, but it isn't confined to the retirement set. Middle-agers, young adults, and even children can have the condition.
  • Doctor and patient
    Myth 3: Overactive bladder is only a concern for women.
    Truth: Women are more likely than men to seek medical help for the problem. But overactive bladder doesn't discriminate by sex. In fact, starting at age 60, more men than women say they have symptoms of the condition.
  • Public restroom
    Myth 4: Nobody else has trouble making it to the bathroom in time.
    Truth: According to the National Association for Continence, about 12.2 million American adults have this problem, called urge incontinence. Some people with overactive bladder have trouble controlling the intense urges to urinate. If they can't reach a bathroom quickly enough, they may have an accident.
  • man with hands holding his crotch (urogenital area) who needs to pee or who has pain with urination
    Myth 5: OAB is caused by a tiny bladder.
    Truth: Sudden, strong urges to urinate are usually caused by involuntary bladder contractions. In men, an enlarged prostate may contribute to overactive bladder. In people with neurological disorders—such as multiple sclerosis or stroke—faulty signals between the brain and bladder may play a role.
  • Woman drinking water
    Myth 6: To control overactive bladder, drink only four cups of water a day.
    Truth: Cutting back drastically on how much water you drink isn't healthy. Although you'll make less urine, it may be more highly concentrated. This dark yellow, strong-smelling urine irritates the bladder, so you might actually need to urinate more often. Aim to drink six to eight cups of fluids spaced throughout the day.
  • Close-up of a bathroom door handle
    Myth 7: It's a good idea to hit the bathroom every chance you get.
    Some people with overactive bladder get into the habit of going to the toilet "just in case." However, this just increases the frequency of bathroom trips—and the goal is to work toward visiting the bathroom less, not more.
  • Woman talking to doctor
    Myth 8: There's nothing you can do about overactive bladder.
    Truth: Effective treatments are available, so don't be afraid to discuss symptoms of overactive bladder with your doctor. Behavioral approaches—such as diet changes, pelvic muscle exercises, and bladder retraining—are often helpful. Medication may be prescribed as well.
  • Pills
    Myth 9: If you've tried one overactive bladder medicine, you've tried them all.
    Truth: Several different medications are FDA-approved for treating overactive bladder. If one causes bothersome side effects—such as dry mouth, constipation, or blurred vision—your doctor may recommend another. You might try an extended-release formulation or switch from a pill to a skin patch or gel. Options abound!
  • Injection
    Myth 10: If behavioral treatments and medicine don't work, you're out of luck.
    Truth: The vast majority of people with overactive bladder are helped by behavioral treatments and medicine. But for those who aren't, there are other highly effective options, including stimulation of nerves controlling the bladder and Botox injections into the bladder to relax it.
10 Myths About Overactive Bladder
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Last Review Date: 2021 Jun 24
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.