Underactive bladder in women: is there any evidence?

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Purpose of review

Underactive bladder (UAB) is a clinical symptom complex only recently gaining recognition as a clinical diagnosis. Lack of consensus agreement on a definition of UAB has limited its recognition and diagnosis in clinical practice. The purposes of this review are to: present existing definitions of UAB, review recent data regarding clinical and urodynamic diagnosis of the condition, and examine up-to-date hypotheses regarding its pathophysiology, with a focus on women.

Recent findings

The process to develop a consensus definition for UAB as a clinical symptom complex is ongoing. Symptoms associated with UAB, such as weak stream, straining to void, and history of urinary retention are well correlated to detrusor underactivity on urodynamics, which frequently develops in elderly women. In addition to aging, UAB may be the end stage of a variety of contributing pathologic conditions such as diabetes and ischemic disease. In some women, UAB may result from a progression from overactive bladder to UAB.


Existing evidence supports UAB in women as a symptom complex with a clinical and pathophysiologic profile distinguishable from other lower urinary tract-associated clinical conditions. Consensus definitions of clinical and urodynamic diagnostic parameters will be essential to more widespread recognition of UAB.

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