Around one in six adults – more than 300,000 Irish people – suffers from an overactive bladder, according to a specialist.
Tom Creagh, a consultant urologist at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, said that despite its prevalence, it is a silent health issue, as it frequently goes undiagnosed and untreated.
It is estimated that half of sufferers have never consulted a doctor about their condition.
"While it is more common in women in the under-40s age group, as the age profile increases, it occurs with equal frequency in both genders, and men catch up from their 60s onwards," he wrote in the 'Irish Medical Times'.
He said new treatments were now available for the condition.
"Most patients find it difficult to talk about the symptoms, and embarrassment can even prevent doctors and nurses from asking questions about it."
It can significantly impact on patients' lifestyles, to the point where they stop going on long journeys or attending social events.
"Basically, they end up not doing things they used to always do. It can be simple things like playing with the kids, and their life ends up being controlled by their bladder instead of being supported by it.
"I'm often surprised how long people put up with it, particularly women, who are usually very good about health issues. Usually, it has gone to some catastrophic stage where they are wetting at work or have had to stop doing some things before they present," he said.
Many patients assume OAB is an inevitable part of ageing or something they have to put up with, but in fact it is often due to issues such as a bladder stone, tumour, prolapse, muscle weakness following pregnancy, or a neurological issue.
He is urging fellow doctors to talk to patients who may be regarded as being at risk about their bladder.