Overactive bladder (OAB) affects an estimated 49 million people in Europe, but only a minority receive appropriate treatment. Others are bothered by unacceptable levels of symptoms that severely impair their quality of life and represent a significant financial burden to themselves and to their healthcare providers. Recently updated guidelines from the International Consultation on Incontinence (ICI) and the European Association of Urology (EAU) take account of important new developments in the management of bladder problems in both primary and secondary care. However, local implementation of previous guidance has been variable, with many patients with OAB and other bladder problems failing to gain full benefit from current clinical and scientific understanding of these conditions. The recent expansion of the range of treatments available for OAB and stress urinary incontinence makes it especially important that physicians become aware of the differential diagnosis of these conditions - the questions they need to ask, and the investigations which will help determine the most appropriate course of action.