Overactive Bladder vs. Urge Incontinence: What’s The Difference?

Nothing works that having a sudden urge to use the restroom only to have an accident before you make it to the toilet. This is even worse if you suffer such accidents on a regular basis. There are two main types of ailments that can be the source of such problems; overactive bladder vs. urge incontinence. While they may seem like the same thing, they are both very different.

Overactive Bladder vs. Urge Incontinence: What’s The Difference?

There are many different causes of overactive bladder vs. urge incontinence. They are related to each other, but they can exist separately. Urge urinary incontinence is treatable with physical therapy and depending on the cause, will resolve on its own. OAB, on the other hand, may require medication to help control the signals sent to the brain from the bladder. Let’s discuss the difference between both in more detail below.

What is Overactive Bladder?

An overactive bladder is often referred to as OAB. This is a condition in which a person is no longer able to hold their urine in a normal manner. This is not an active mind problem, but rather a malfunction of the bladder itself. Most people who suffer from an overactive bladder are plagued by the constant or sudden need to pee. In most cases, if this need is not addressed right away, it can result in an accident.

Those who have an overactive bladder condition are plagued by spasms that trigger a desperate need to pee. These urges are often frequent in nature and can tend to come and go on their own schedule. Those who have overactive bladders will often suffer from urge urinary incontinence, which is a symptom rather than a condition. Not all cases of overactive bladder result in actual urination, in many cases, it is simply the urge to pee without producing liquid.

What Causes an Overactive Bladder?

Your bladder is controlled by your nerves, as is all the other muscles in your body. In a properly functioning bladder, your nerves will sense when your bladder is full and tell your brain that you need to go to the bathroom. For most people, you will get the signal that your bladder is full you will be able to hold it until you can make it to the bathroom. Once you make it to the bathroom, you can manually signal to your bladder that it is time to release its contents, into the toilet or urinal of course.

The muscles that control your bladder is called the detrusor muscle. This is the part of your bladder that gets the message from your brain about when to release the urine. Those who suffer from the overactive bladder may receive mixed signals. Not only do the nerves tell your brain that your bladder is full, but it also has your brain tell your bladder to release its load....no matter where you happen to be. The detrusor muscle will spasm on its own which is why the condition called an overactive bladder.

The amount of pee that comes out will vary from person to person. Some people suffer from regular bouts of urinary urge incontinence, while others will simply feel the urge but remain dry. The severity can range from a few drops to a full bladder being released.

What is Urinary Urge Incontinence?

Urinary incontinence is the actual act of losing control of your bladder. This can result in accidents or simply small amounts of moisture leaked from your genitals. Unlike OAB, which is a condition, urinary urge incontinence is a symptom caused by another condition. There are many different causes for Urinary incontinence such as due to drinking too much, a side effect of medication, or even because of a lingering urinary tract infection.

What Causes Urinary Urge Incontinence?

It is important to note that urinary urge incontinence is a symptom of a different condition or problem. Problems may include an underlying medical condition, an infection, a poor diet, or other physical problems. In some cases, medications, certain food, or even drinks work as a diuretic which will cause you to suffer from urinary urge incontinence.

Some treatable causes of urinary urge incontinence are UTIs, constipation, weight gain, and pregnancy. All of these affect the pressure and the muscles of the bladder which can make it harder to control or clench when the urge to pee strikes. Many women will experience urinary urge incontinence following childbirth. The act of giving birth weakens the pelvic floor, and this makes it harder to control the bladder. In addition, urinary urge incontinence tends to be common among the elderly as the body ages and the bladder loses its higher capacity.

Bladder Treatment & Management

It is important to seek medical advice when dealing with either issue. Your doctor will be able to evaluate your condition to identify the cause, problem, and treatment for your ailment.


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From screening and prevention to treatment and recovery, we will be there for you. Our team of dedicated physicians has been serving residents of Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota for more than 25 years.

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