Objective To determine the prevalence of chronic and debilitating symptoms of the overactive bladder, defined here as the presence of chronic frequency, urgency and urge incontinence (either alone or in any combination), and presumed to be caused by involuntary detrusor contractions.
Subjects and methods Data were collected using a population-based survey (conducted by telephone or direct interview) of men and women aged 40 years, selected from the general population in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom, using a random stratified approach. The main outcome measures were: prevalence of urinary frequency (> 8 micturitions/24 h), urgency and urge incontinence; the proportion of participants who had sought medical advice for symptoms of an overactive bladder; and current or previous therapy received for these symptoms.
Results In all, 16 776 interviews were conducted in the six European countries. The overall prevalence of overactive bladder symptoms in individuals aged 40 years was 16.6%. Frequency (85%) was the most commonly reported symptom, followed by urgency (54%) and urge incontinence (36%). The prevalence of overactive bladder symptoms increased with advancing age. Overall, 60% of respondents with symptoms had consulted a doctor but only 27% were currently receiving treatment.
Conclusion Symptoms of an overactive bladder, of which frequency and urgency are as bothersome as urge incontinence, are highly prevalent in the general population. However, only a few affected individuals currently receive treatment. Taken together, such findings indicate that there is considerable scope for improvement in terms of how physicians diagnose and treat this condition.