Everything you need to know about OAB (Overactive Bladder)

Overactive Bladder (OAB)

Did you know Overactive Bladder (OAB) is estimated to affect around one in nine people worldwide?

If you are one of these people, you are not alone. All hope is not lost. During World Continence Week (June 19-25) Australians are being urged to ‘Check their Bladder’.

The ‘Wee Dance’ video was shot in North Sydney’s busy Greenwood Plaza earlier this week to help raise awareness of an all-too-common issue…

The symptoms associated with OAB may be controlled with more knowledge, a correct diagnosis and appropriate management. However, there is a huge lack of awareness, with only six out of 10 people who display symptoms speaking to a doctor.

How do you know if you have OAB?

You may have OAB if you experience the following:

  • Urgency: The sudden overwhelming desire to urinate that is unable to be put off.
  • Frequency: The need to urinate frequently during the day, often defined as eight or more times over a 24-hour period.
  • Nocturia: Waking at night to urinate, often one or more times.
  • Urge urinary incontinence: This describes the involuntary loss or leakage of urine. A feeling of urgency – the sudden urge to ‘go’ – is often felt immediately before or during a leak.

OAB always includes the symptom of urgency, usually with frequency and nocturia, but it can be with or without incontinence.

OAB symptoms occur when nerves in the bladder send signals to the brain at the wrong time. Thinking the bladder is full, the brain tells the bladder to empty, squeezing the bladder muscle over-actively. It creates a sudden need to ‘go’. In some cases, the urge can be so sudden that you have trouble holding on and making it to the bathroom in time.

Astellas Pharma Australia has launched an awareness campaign, Hold On Australia, to help raise awareness about OAB and try to encourage people to speak to their doctor about any urinary symptoms that bother them.

Why don’t people speak to their doctor about OAB?

  • Embarrassment
  • The stigma surrounding bladder problems
  • The thought that nothing can be done to relieve symptoms
  • The belief that symptoms are a normal part of ageing
  • The perception that symptoms of OAB are not valid medical conditions

With appropriate management, OAB symptoms can be better controlled and relief afforded to the sufferer. If left unchecked, it may impact a person’s quality of life; they may restrict activities they once enjoyed, may make them feel embarrassed and could impact them socially, physically, emotionally and sexually.

Australians can get a better understanding of their bladder health by visiting bladderchecker.com.au and speaking with a doctor.

What can you do if you have OAB?

Adjust your diet

Certain types of food and drink irritate the bladder more than others. But some actively encourage bladder health. Check out this list of foods to avoid and those to embrace:

Foods to limit:

  • Tea
  • Coffee
  • Alcohol
  • Fizzy drinks
  • Fruits, especially citrus (oranges, lemon, grapefruit)
  • Citrus drinks (orange or grapefruit juice)
  • Tomatoes and tomato-based food
  • Spicy foods
  • Chocolate
  • Artificial sweeteners

Foods to embrace:

  • Cranberry or prune juice
  • Plums
  • Salt-free crackers
  • Cookies: non-chocolate, oatmeal
  • Hard candy
  • Jelly
  • Decaffeinated beverages: tea, coffee
  • Cheese
  • Cereal


Not everyone needs medication to manage OAB symptoms. But if conservative management doesn’t deliver the results you were hoping for, there are several medications that your doctor can prescribe for you.

Other options

If lifestyle management and/or medications fail, don’t give up hope. There are still several options to help with more severe cases of OAB. If you need them, your doctor will refer you to a specialist to discuss your options in more detail.

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