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Does OAB Lead to a Higher Fall Risk?


For those who suffer from an overactive bladder (OAB), the constant need for bathroom breaks can be annoying, embarrassing and a big interruption to everyday life. And if OAB is causing the need for frequent bathroom trips during the night, also known as Nocturia, it can become a  safety concern. People with OAB often worry that constantly getting out of bed to go to the bathroom could cause them to suffer a serious fall in the night. But does OAB actually lead to a higher fall risk? 

What is Overactive Bladder?

Overactive bladder syndrome is a condition that can cause sudden and uncontrollable urges to urinate. People who suffer from OAB find themselves constantly heading to the toilet at a moment’s notice because of the sudden and frequent urges. These urges can come even if the bladder is completely empty, and when the bladder is full, it can sometimes lead to leakage. This involuntary loss of urine is also known as urge incontinence and is a common symptom of OAB. In fact, 40-70 percent of incontinence cases can be linked to overactive bladder.

There are many conditions and lifestyle factors that can lead to overactive bladder, including the following:

  • Diabetes
  • Bladder abnormalities
  • Neurological disorders like multiple sclerosis
  • An enlarged prostate
  • Serious or long lasting urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Aging
  • Excessive alcohol or caffeine consumption

OAB vs Nocturia

Nocturia is simply experiencing OAB symptoms at night. Nocturia is typically diagnosed when a person has to make more than one trip to the bathroom per night on a regular basis. Nocturia is often experienced along with OAB, but it is possible to have nocturia without OAB. People can suffer from frequent nighttime urination, while having completely normal urination during the day.

Nocturia is very common. In fact, one in three people over 30 report needing to make at least two bathroom trips during the night. Nocturia can lead to an overall lowered quality of life. If someone is unable to get a full-night’s sleep on a regular basis due to excessive bathroom trips, it can cause fatigue during the day. Fatigue can lead to mood swings, impaired decision making, muscle soreness, and many other health concerns.

How can Overactive Bladder Lead to Falls?

According to a recent study published in Neurology and Urodynamics, sufferers of OAB are 59 percent more likely to fall than those without the condition. This is primarily caused by the number of times a person with nocturia may get up and down throughout the night. Finding their way to the bathroom in the dark, especially in a tired state, can lead to stumbles and falls. These falls can lead to injuries such as fractures and bruises in seniors. In some cases, a serious fall in the night can even lead to death.

This threat can cause serious concern to those who suffer from OAB, and it is very important that they take precautions to lower their risks of night falls.

Hospital Falls Due to Nocturia

A recent study shed some light on the severity of the link between nocturia and nighttime falls by examining the frequency of after-hours falls in senior hospital patients. Instances of falling were most often caused by seniors losing their balance or slipping on the way to the toilet. Researchers reported that 54 percent of all falls happened between the hours of 8:00 pm – 8:00 am, most of these falls being associated with nighttime bathroom visits. The study also concluded that the actual percentage of nighttime falls would be closer to 75 percent if the unreported events were taken into account. Approximately 25 percent of falls were not reported or brought to hospital staff’s attention.

How to Lower Chances of Falling

While night falls can happen to anyone, there are some steps people with OAB can take to lower their fall risk when making trips to the bathroom at night. 

1. Create a clear path

If there are things obstructing your path to the restroom, it can increase the risk of a fall. Be sure the path from your bed to the restroom is clear of shoes, clothes, bags, electrical cords, chairs, or anything that you could bump into or trip over.

2. Invest in small nightlights

Even if everything is cleared out of the way, the path to the bathroom can still pose a risk if you can’t see where you’re going. Implementing some small nightlights can help you avoid tripping over any objects or pets that might be in the way.

3. Drink plenty of water

It may seem counterproductive to combat constant bathroom breaks, but by filling your bladder often, you are reinforcing the normal urge to urinate. This can decrease the urge for constant bathroom breaks and lead to a more peaceful night’s sleep. Just be sure not to drink too much right before bed time.

4. Cut down on caffeine

Excessive caffeine consumption can not only lead to a bad night’s sleep, but it can also cause you to become dehydrated. Caffeine is a diuretic that can cause even more frequent urination, as it strips the water out of your system. Especially before bed, avoid caffeinated coffees, sodas, teas, and even chocolate.

5. Avoid alcohol

Like coffee, alcohol is not doing your bladder any favors. In addition to dehydrating, alcohol turns off your body’s ability to concentrate urine, while at the same time causing it to produce more urine. This means you will be taking more frequent bathroom breaks and can worsen your already irritating OAB symptoms.

Talk to a Urologist About Treatment Options

Most importantly, seeing an experienced physician that specializes in urological conditions is the best way to manage OAB. Recent statistics reveal that only 14 percent of the 33,631 OAB patients on Medicare receive any sort of treatment. However, people who are getting treatment for their OAB are 12 percent less likely to suffer a fall.


Are you concerned that your OAB may lead to a fall? Do you have other questions about managing your OAB? Visit your nearest Advanced Urology and start treating your symptoms today.