You may have heard that healthy human urine has no germs. Many doctors believe it too. But a recent study says that may not be so. These findings may lead us to rethink what causes overactive bladder (OAB) symptoms and how they may be treated.

Researchers at Loyola University Chicago studied the bladders and urine of 30 healthy women and 60 women who have urinary urge incontinence–the sudden, intense urge to urinate that may sometimes cause loss of bladder control.

Contrary to popular belief, they found bacteria in the urine of both types of women. But perhaps the most intriguing finding was that the germs in the bladders of healthy women were different from strains found in women with OAB.

That raises the question of whether bacteria may cause overactive bladder or contribute to its development. However, another possibility is that these different germs simply develop as a result of the disease instead of being a cause.

Millions of Americans–mostly women–suffer from overactive bladder symptoms, yet an estimated 40 to 50 percent of them are not helped by conventional treatments. Until now, doctors didn’t know why. Now some say that the differences in urinary bacteria could be the answer.

More research is needed to learn what role if any the bacteria play in the disease. If proof is found that certain bacteria cause OAB, more effective treatments might be developed that target these germs. It might also become possible to identify people who are at risk for the disorder and prevent it.

To learn more about overactive bladder:

8 Dos and Don'ts for Overactive Bladder
Botox for Overactive Bladder
Teaching Your Bladder to Behave