Have you ever wondered what causes an overactive bladder? This is a common conversation I have with patients, and I often share this list of eight things that could be the culprit.
- Caffeine tops the list. Caffeine is a powerful drug, and it makes the bladder squeeze way before it should. In fact, caffeine is more powerful than most overactive bladder medications. It is found in coffee, most teas, soft drinks and in particularly high doses in energy drinks.
- Constipation. This surprises a lot of people, but the same nerves that control the rectum and colon are controlling the bladder. A constipated person has an irritated rectum and the overactive bladder goes with it. Fixing constipation often fixes overactive bladder in many people.
- Spicy foods. When spices hit the bladder it gets irritated and won’t stretch like it should.
- Urinary tract infections. When the bladder is infected, it gets irritated and inflamed. This triggers it to send signals to go to the bathroom more often.
- Bladder or ureteral stones. Again, irritation is the problem. Sometimes the stone can block up the urethra so the bladder doesn’t empty well. This leads to a bladder that isn’t just overactive – it can be downright full.
- Vaginal irritation. The urethra in a woman is very short, so anything that irritates its opening at the vagina can make the bladder spasm. This is why a lot of women feel like they have a UTI after intercourse. It usually isn’t a UTI – it is frictional irritation of the urethra.
- Bladder cancer. Any growth that causes an unusual change to the inside of the bladder can make it overactive. This is very rare in anyone under 50 and is not considered a common cause of overactive bladder, but it does need to be checked in some cases.
- Neurogenic causes. The bladder and the brain have to talk to each other by way of nerves. The bladder is told by the brain to relax and fill instead of squeezing too early. When the nerves aren’t working correctly, the brain can’t tell the bladder to relax (or the bladder doesn’t listen) and over activity follows. This can be from common things like diabetes, but also other things like Multiple Sclerosis or Parkinson’s Disease.