Urination: Frequent Urination
What is frequent urination?
Inconvenient and disruptive to your daily life, frequent urination is when you need to urinate many times throughout a 24-hour period. This is a symptom of many different conditions and can have a wide variety of solutions. At some points in your life, like during pregnancy, you may need to pee more frequently. This can be a normal symptom of something like pregnancy and it usually passes after birth. However, frequent urination can be linked to other health issues that aren’t normal parts of life and don’t fade over time. It can be a symptom of more serious conditions like diabetes, overactive bladder syndrome, UTIs or prostate problems. Needing to urinate frequently can even disturb your sleep. That full bladder that keeps waking you up in the middle of an otherwise good night’s sleep is a condition called nocturia.
In many cases, your healthcare provider can help relieve this symptom by treating the underlying condition.
Who experiences frequent urination?
The need to urinate is something that everyone feels. This shared experience isn’t always consistent though. Sometimes you may need to urinate much more often than what is typical for you. This can happen to anyone. Men, women, and children can all have this symptom. However, it’s more common at certain times in your life or when you have other conditions. You’re more likely to frequently urinate if you’re:
- A middle-age or old adult.
- Have an enlarged prostate.
What causes frequent urination?
There are actually many different conditions that could cause frequent urination. Many of these causes are based on your age, gender or possibly even both. You could experience frequent urination a few times throughout your life for different reasons. These conditions can range from minor—and easily manageable—to more serious issues.
Urinary tract and bladder conditions It may seem obvious, but issues with your urinary tract and bladder are some of the most common conditions to cause frequent urination. Urinary tract infections (UTI), in particular, are the most common cause of frequent urination. During a UTI, an outside infection enters the body and causes inflammation (swelling) in your urinary system. This system is made up of the kidneys, ureters (tubes connecting the kidneys to the bladder), bladder and urethra (the tube that carries urine out of the body). Other conditions in this system that can cause frequent urination to include interstitial cystitis (a painful bladder condition where you feel an increased need to urinate) and overactive bladder syndrome. In very rare cases, frequent urination can be a symptom of bladder cancer.
Pregnancy During pregnancy, the bladder gets squished as the baby takes up more and more space inside of your body. Frequent urination is a very common and normal symptom of pregnancy. Interestingly, you will experience this symptom more during your first and third trimesters—the second trimester is a slight reprieve because the uterus is higher in your body, taking some pressure off your bladder. This symptom shouldn’t be an issue in the weeks and months after childbirth as your body returns to its not-pregnant “normal.” You may be encouraged to do Kegel exercises (muscle contraction exercises that work out your pelvic floor) to avoid bladder problems like urine leakage (incontinence).
Diabetes Frequent urination is actually a very common symptom of diabetes. You may have it if you have either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. The cause of this symptom is tied to a circular pattern happening with your kidneys. In diabetes, your body isn’t controlling the amount of sugar in your blood—which the kidneys are responsible for cleaning. As the kidneys do overtime to filter the blood, there is extra fluid that needs to leave the body. The more you need to urinate, and that fluid leaves your body, the more you drink to keep hydrated. This keeps the circle going.
Prostate problems In men, the prostate is a golf-ball-sized gland that makes some of the liquid that comes out during ejaculation. Your prostate grows as you do, but it can cause issues if it gets too large. A large prostate can place pressure on your urinary system and cause frequent urination. Conditions like benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) – prostate enlargement, are all fairly common and treatable by your doctor. Other conditions that could cause frequent urination can include:
- Having a stroke.
- Developing a pelvic tumor.
- Using diuretics (medications that help remove extra salt and water from the body through urine).
- Having vaginitis (inflammation of the vagina).
- Having a prolapse of the female pelvic organs through the vagina.
- Radiation therapy to the pelvic area.
- Drinking too much alcohol or caffeine.
Care and Treatment
Should I be worried if I have these conditions and frequent urination?
If you ever have a symptom that is outside of what’s normal for your body, reach out to your healthcare provider. In some cases, pregnancy, for example, frequent urination is completely normal and nothing to worry about. However, in some conditions, your caregiver may want to know if you are urinating much more than you typically do. There’s a very wide range of conditions—with varying levels of seriousness—that could cause frequent urination. It is always safe to discuss your symptoms with your healthcare provider.
How do I know if it’s frequent urination?
The characteristics of frequent urination are easy to spot. If you feel the need to pee more than four to eight times in one day, odds are that you have issues with frequent urination. Your healthcare provider may ask you a few questions to confirm this symptom. These could include questions like:
- What medicines are you taking?
- How much fluid do you usually drink?
- Are you drinking more than usual?
- Do you drink alcohol or caffeine?
During a visit, the healthcare provider may also take a urine sample to test for bacteria and white blood cells. UTIs are typically discovered this way. An ultrasound could be used to look for tumors or other structural issues that might be causing frequent urination. Another test you may have is a cystoscopy, which is used to look inside your bladder.
Can frequent urination be controlled or stopped?
Frequent urination can be controlled, and often, stopped over time and with treatment. Your healthcare provider will usually start by determining the cause of your symptom. If the condition can be treated, you should see a decrease in how often you need to urinate. Treatment depends completely on the condition. In cases like a UTI, you may need an antibiotic medication. This may be prescribed by your healthcare provider and you should feel better once you have finished the medication. Other conditions like diabetes or prostate problems will require a trip to see a specialist. The specialist will work with you to manage your symptoms and improve your daily routine. If your healthcare provider has diagnosed you with overactive bladder syndrome, pelvic floor physical therapy may help and there are actually several medications that can be used to calm your bladder. Talk to your healthcare provider about whether or not these might be good options for you.
What can I do to control frequent urination?
There are several lifestyle changes and non-medicated ways to manage your frequent urination. These can include:
- Avoiding drinking fluids before going to bed.
- Limiting the amount of alcohol and caffeine you drink.
- Doing Kegel exercises to build up strength in your pelvic floor. These muscles support the organs in the pelvis, including your bladder. Kegel exercises are often prescribed to women after childbirth because of the stress having a baby places on the pelvic floor muscles.
- Wearing a protective pad or underwear to avoid leaks. This is a short-term solution that can help you keep living your life while your condition is being treated.
When to Call the Doctor
When should I reach out to my doctor about frequent urination?
Because the conditions behind frequent urination can range wildly from casual to severe, you should speak to your doctor about anything outside of your typical urination patterns. In some cases, frequent urination may be just an annoying symptom that will end when you cut back on the caffeine—or have the baby. However, if you are unsure why you’re urinating so frequently, it is best to set up an appointment and talk about it. This is a symptom that can often be treated and isn’t something that you need to just “deal with.”
There are a few signs to keep an eye out for and call your doctor immediately if you have them with frequent urination. These include:
- If you have a fever.
- If you are vomiting.
- If you have back pain (lower back and towards the sides—over your kidneys).
- If you see blood in your urine.
- If you have a discharge coming out of your vagina or penis.
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