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Int J Clin Pract. 2005 Jul;59(7):825-30.

Overactive bladder: achieving a differential diagnosis from other lower urinary tract conditions.

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Department of Urology, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY, USA.


Overactive bladder (OAB) is a debilitating condition characterised by an urgent need to urinate (urgency), often with urinary frequency and, in some cases, urgency incontinence and nocturnal frequency. Patients often adopt complex adaptive behaviours to cope with their symptoms as OAB can compromise all dimensions of a patient's quality of life. Most OAB patients present initially to their primary care physician. Diagnosis is based on presenting symptomatology and does not require any invasive tests. Direct questioning about symptoms is important in achieving a differential diagnosis. The most common condition to be considered when working towards a differential diagnosis is a urinary tract infection (UTI). However, some physicians have expressed concerns about identifying the small number of cases where bladder cancer is a potential underlying aetiology for the symptoms of OAB. In this review, we examine the prevalence and patient profiles for these bladder conditions and their presenting symptomatology. We also review tests that may be recommended to exclude a diagnosis of UTI or bladder cancer and present a diagnostic algorithm suitable for office-based primary care practice.

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