The link between an overactive bladder (OAB) and thyroid conditions is unclear. People can take medications and make lifestyle changes to manage symptoms of these conditions.
OAB is a common disorder that causes a sudden uncontrollable urge to urinate and a frequent need to go to the bathroom. Some people may also experience incontinence.
This article will explore whether there is a link between OAB and thyroid issues. It also covers the treatment and management of frequent urination as a symptom of thyroid disease.
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.
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland at the front of the neck. It produces hormones that help regulate metabolism, mood, breathing, and heart rate.
Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid overproduces hormones. People may also refer to this as an overactive thyroid. Doctors refer to the underproduction of these hormones as hypothyroidism or an underactive thyroid.
The International Continence Society defines OAB as involving the following symptoms, with or without incontinence:
One 2021 study involving 7,699 females found that only 7.9% had hypothyroidism.
The prevalence of urinary incontinence in those with hypothyroidism was only slightly higher than it was among those with typical thyroid hormone levels, at 43.6% and 39.3%, respectively.
Ultimately, many participants experienced urinary incontinence regardless of their thyroid status. The researchers concluded that there was no association between hypothyroidism and urinary incontinence.
Experts need to conduct more research to determine if there is a link between the two conditions and their causes.
The thyroid gland does not directly affect the bladder. However, an overproduction or underproduction of thyroid hormones may impact urinary function.
People with hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism may experience symptoms of OAB because thyroid hormones can affect kidney function, causing more frequent urination.
Other thyroid conditions that can affect the urinary tract or bladder include:
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis: This thyroid disorder is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the United States. Low levels of thyroid hormones can impact muscle tone, making it harder to pass urine. This condition can also negatively affect the immune system,
increasingthe risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs). UTIs may cause urinary urgency.
- Graves’ disease: An autoimmune condition and the
most commoncause of hyperthyroidism, Graves’ disease causes the thyroid gland to overproduce thyroid hormones. This may cause some people to experience bladder dysfunction.
- Goiter: A goiter is an enlarged thyroid gland that causes the neck to swell. It does not directly affect the bladder. However, some conditions that cause goiter, such as hyperthyroidism, can affect bladder function.
Treatments are available that may address frequent urination as a symptom of hyperthyroidism.
One of the main treatment goals for hyperthyroidism is to reduce the amount of thyroid hormone in the body. This may involve the following:
- Antithyroid medication: Doctors
commonlyprescribe antithyroid drugs such as methimazole or propylthiouracil to slow thyroid hormone production.
- Radioactive iodine: This low dose treatment destroys active thyroid cells. Radioiodine treatment is not suitable for those who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Surgery: In some cases, removal of all or part of the thyroid gland may be necessary. For example, other treatments may be unsuitable for people who are pregnant or living with cancer.
- Beta-blockers: These medications cannot treat hyperthyroidism or affect thyroid hormone levels. However, they can reduce symptoms until other treatments take effect.
Lifestyle changes such as avoiding caffeine and limiting fluid intake before bedtime may also help reduce the need to urinate frequently.
How effective are thyroid treatments for OAB?
Treatment that regulates thyroid hormone production may help with OAB.
However, regulating hormone levels can take several weeks or even months.
Treatment for hyperthyroidism, such as antithyroid drugs or surgery, can help with frequent urination by regulating thyroid hormone levels.
However, other conditions can also cause frequent urination. It is best for people to consult a healthcare professional to determine the underlying cause of their symptoms and discuss treatment for OAB.
Overactive bladder is not a life threatening condition. However, it can cause severe complications.
While some people may find it challenging to discuss their symptoms, it may be helpful to talk with a medical professional about OAB, especially if frequent urination is causing disruptions to daily life.
It is unclear whether there is a link between an overactive bladder and thyroid conditions such as hyperthyroidism.
However, people with hyperthyroidism may experience urinary problems.
These symptoms are treatable with medication and lifestyle changes. Experts advise that people talk with a doctor if they suspect they may have an overactive thyroid or bladder.