What happens if overactive bladder goes untreated?

A fellow caregiver asked...

What happens if overactive bladder goes untreated?

Expert Answer

Dr. Leslie Kernisan is the author of a popular blog and podcast at BetterHealthWhileAging.net. She is also a clinical instructor in the University of California, San Francisco, Division of Geriatrics.

The answer depends on what is causing the overactive bladder. Especially if the bladder problems are new or worse than usual, one should always start by getting a medical check-up. This is to make sure that the overactive bladder isn't being caused by a new problem, such as a urinary tract infection, diabetes, a medication side-effect, or delirium.

If it's a chronic problem that an overactive bladder causes urinary incontinence, doctors usually call this "urge incontinence."

The main problem with leaving a chronically overactive bladder untreated is that urge incontinence can really impact an older person's quality of life. In particular, urge incontinence has been linked to problems with:

"¢ Getting out of the house to socialize or participate in other activities

"¢ Mood and feelings of self-worth

"¢ Sleep

"¢ Depression and anxiety

In those people who are frail or have dementia, chronically sitting in wet underwear (or a wet diaper) may also cause skin to be painful and irritated, and may increase the chance of developing a skin infection or pressure sore.

To read about treatment options for overactive bladder, click here