Is Urinating Often a Sign of an Overactive Bladder?

Frequent Trips to the Bathroom May Mean You Have Overactive Bladder

How often should you urinate? Most people go between six and eight times a day. But there are a few things that can affect that range; among them, fluid intake (especially if you drink coffee and alcohol) and certain medications (like those that cause a rapid increase in urine production or require you to take them with lots of water).

End of the toilet paper roll

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Normal Bladder Function and Frequency of Urination

Your kidneys filter out wastes and extra water to produce urine. The urine travels down two narrow tubes called ureters and is then stored in the bladder, a muscular, balloon-like organ. The bladder cavity enlarges when it's full and gets smaller as it empties. As the bladder empties, urine flows out of the body through the urethra. In women, the urethral opening is located just above the vagina. In men, it's at the tip of the penis.

As your bladder fills, nerve signals sent to your brain eventually trigger the need to urinate. When you urinate, nerve signals coordinate the relaxation of the pelvic floor muscles and the muscles of the urethra (urinary sphincter muscles). The muscles of the bladder tighten, pushing the urine out.

If all of this happens eight or more times a day (including a few times in the middle of the night), you may have what's known as a frequency problem. Frequency can be caused by an overactive bladder, or by an enlarged prostate In men. 

What Is Overactive Bladder?

An overactive bladder occurs if the muscles of the bladder start to contract involuntarily even when there's not much urine in your bladder. This involuntary contraction creates a sudden urge to urinate that's difficult to control or stop and may lead to incontinence (involuntary loss of urine).

If you think you may have an overactive bladder, see your healthcare provider. They will likely check to see if you have an infection or blood in your urine.

They may also want to make sure that you're emptying your bladder completely when you urinate—not doing so may lead to symptoms of overactive bladder since you have less space left to store urine—and they'll look for clues that point to contributing factors.

You will have one or more of these diagnostic steps:

  • Discuss your medical history
  • Have a physical exam, focusing on your abdomen and genitals
  • Provide a urine sample to test for infection, traces of blood, or other abnormalities
  • Have a focused neurological exam that may identify sensory problems or abnormal reflexes
  • Undergo what's known as urodynamic testing—a procedure that looks at how well the bladder, sphincters, and urethra are storing and releasing urine.
  • Your provider may look inside your urethra and bladder (cystoscopy)
  • An ultrasound or other imaging of the kidneys or bladder

Most urodynamic tests focus on the bladder’s ability to hold urine and empty the urine steadily and thoroughly. Urodynamic tests can also show whether the bladder is having involuntary contractions that cause urine leakage. Most urodynamic tests don't involve special preparations.

Depending on the test, you may be asked to arrive with a full bladder. For a few hours afterward, it may be a little uncomfortable to urinate. Drinking an 8-ounce glass of water every half-hour during that period may help relieve the discomfort. 

Once your healthcare provider has your test results, they will have a better idea of what may be causing your overactive bladder.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Urology Care Foundation. What is overactive bladder (OAB)?

  2. NIH National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Diagnosis of bladder control problems (urinary incontinence).

Additional Reading

By Tracee Cornforth
Tracee Cornforth is a freelance writer who covers menstruation, menstrual disorders, and other women's health issues.