Studies suggest there may be a link between irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and an overactive bladder. Doctors can treat both conditions using medications and lifestyle changes.
Overactive bladder is the term that some people use for urinary incontinence. However, an overactive bladder may also include urgent and frequent urination without incontinence. Some
This article explores IBS and its symptoms and causes. It also explores the evidence suggesting a link between IBS and overactive bladder and describes the treatments doctors recommend for each condition. Finally, it answers some common questions about IBS and overactive bladder.
A note about sex and gender
Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.
According to these criteria, a person has IBS if they have experienced recurrent abdominal pain, on average, at least 4 days a month over at least 2 months, associated with two or more of the following points:
The NIDDKD explains that there are different types of IBS with related symptoms:
- IBS with constipation (IBS-C): With this type, a person has unusual bowel movements in which more than a quarter of the stool is hard or lumpy, and less than a quarter of the stool is loose or watery.
- IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D): This type describes abnormal bowel movements in which more than a quarter of the stool is loose or watery, and less than a quarter of the stool is hard or lumpy.
- IBS with mixed bowel habits (IBS-M): A person has unusual bowel movements in which more than a quarter of their stools are hard or lumpy, and more than a quarter of their stools are loose and watery.
The NIDDKD further explains that IBS has links with gut-brain interactions. The digestive organs and brain are connected and work together. As a result, stressful life events, depression, and anxiety are common in people with IBS, and experts believe they play a role in the condition developing.
Additionally, research suggests that other contributing factors may include:
- genes or having a family member with IBS
- food intolerances or sensitivities
- gut bacteria
- digestive tract infection
IBS may last a long time, and symptoms may come and go. A person should talk with a healthcare professional if they think they may have IBS. A doctor can provide an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
The International Continence Society defines overactive bladder syndrome as the following symptoms with or without incontinence:
- urinary urgency
- urinary frequency
- waking in the night to urinate
However, the 2015 review explains that IBS may have links with general urinary tract symptoms and that reasons for possible links between the two conditions remain unclear.
Additionally, the 2015 review suggests that people with IBS may tend to overinterpret sensations, which could cause them to overreport bladder problems in studies.
It is important to note that some research suggests no link between the two conditions. For example, a 2017 survey among 609 people with IBS showed no association with overactive bladder. However, this study was not performed in a controlled clinical setting. This means its results may not accurately represent the symptoms of IBS.
Scientists need to conduct more research to determine the links between the two conditions and their causes.
The NIDDKD advises that doctors treat IBS by recommending the following lifestyle changes:
- dietary changes, which may include:
- avoiding gluten
- following a low fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols diet, known commonly as the low FODMAP diet
- eating more fiber
- taking medications to treat pain, diarrhea, or constipation
- taking probiotics
- increasing exercise and getting enough sleep
- reducing stress and trying mental health therapies
Overactive bladder treatment
According to a
- anticholinergic medications
- lifestyle changes, such as:
- dietary changes, such as restricting:
- bladder retraining, which involves urinating at regular intervals
- pelvic floor muscle training
Doctors may recommend Botox injections into the bladder muscle or neuromodulation (nerve stimulation) if a person’s bladder does not respond to anticholinergic medications.
Below are some of the most common questions and answers about IBS and the bladder.
Why does IBS affect the bladder?
Studies suggest that overactive bladder and urinary conditions are
What are the symptoms of IBS?
Can IBS make someone feel as though they need to pee?
Some research suggests that
It is unclear whether IBS causes an overactive bladder. However, evidence suggests there may be a link between the two conditions.
Doctors may treat IBS and overactive bladder with medications and lifestyle changes, including bladder or pelvic floor training, weight management, and dietary changes.
A person should talk with a doctor if they have symptoms of either condition.