Overactive Bladder Versus UTI: What's The Difference?

An overactive bladder and a UTI can have many similarities, but there are some key differences between these two conditions. An overactive bladder is a condition where the muscles in the bladder become too active and contract too frequently (via Mayo Clinic). This can cause urinary urgency, frequency, and leakage. Symptoms of an overactive bladder include feeling a sudden urge to urinate, urinating more frequently (including during the night), and urinating when you don't really have to go.

There are several health conditions that can contribute to someone developing an overactive bladder, including diabetes, neurological disorders, and urinary tract infections. Symptoms of an overactive bladder can be associated with drinking too much and taking certain medications. There are several treatments for an overactive bladder, including medications, behavioral therapies, and surgery. Medications that are commonly used to treat an overactive bladder work by relaxing the muscles in the bladder. Behavioral therapies focus on helping people change their habits and behaviors related to urination. Surgery is typically only recommended if other treatments have failed.

What to know about urinary tract infections

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is a condition that occurs when bacteria enters the urinary tract and multiplies (via Cleveland Clinic). The most common symptom of a UTI is a burning sensation when urinating. Other symptoms may include cloudy or bloody urine, strong-smelling urine, and pelvic pain. Similar to an overactive bladder, it is common for someone with a UTI to feel the need to urinate frequently. UTIs are diagnosed using one of two tests: a urine culture or a urinalysis. A urine culture is the most accurate test and involves growing bacteria from a urine sample. A urinalysis is a simpler test that can detect white blood cells, red blood cells, and bacteria in the urine.

UTIs are treated with antibiotics. It is important to follow your doctor's instructions and take the full dosage of medication, even if you begin to feel better. In some cases, hospitalization for a UTI may be necessary. UTIs are more common in women than men. This is because the female urethra is shorter than the male urethra, making it easier for bacteria to reach the bladder. If you think you may have a UTI, it's important to see a doctor as soon as possible. Untreated UTIs can lead to serious health complications.