Frequent urination, also known as urinary frequency, is a condition in which you feel the need to pass urine more often than usual. Frequent urination may occur due to a variety of reasons, some of which are not serious or harmful. For example, frequent urination may occur after drinking a lot of fluids, especially fluids that contain caffeine or alcohol. Pregnancy can cause frequent urination due to pressure put on the bladder by an enlarging uterus.
If frequent urination is unexplained or persistent, it can be a symptom of an underlying disease, disorder or condition. These include diabetes, urinary tract infection, enlarged prostate, and side effects of certain medications, such as diuretics.
Frequent urination can occur in all age groups and populations, and it may or may not occur with additional symptoms, such as a foul urine odor and burning with urination. In some cases, frequent urination can be due to serious or life-threatening underlying diseases, such as pyelonephritis, urosepsis or diabetes.
Factors that increase your risk of developing urinary incontinence include:
Gender: Women are more likely to have stress incontinence. Pregnancy, childbirth, menopause and normal female anatomy account for this difference. However, men with prostate gland problems are at increased risk of urge and overflow incontinence.
Age: As you get older, the muscles in your bladder and urethra lose some of their strength. Changes with age reduce how much your bladder can hold and increase the chances of involuntary urine release.
Being overweight: Extra weight increases pressure on your bladder and surrounding muscles, which weakens them and allows urine to leak out when you cough or sneeze.
Smoking: Tobacco use may increase your risk of urinary incontinence.
Family history: If a close family member has urinary incontinence, especially urge incontinence, your risk of developing the condition is higher.
Other diseases: Neurological disease or diabetes may increase your risk of incontinence.
There are a number of frequent urination causes that doctors consider when a person complains about the sudden urge to urinate or the need to urinate frequently. One cause that sounds almost too simple is anxiety
Stress and anxiety can trigger stress hormones to travel to certain spots in the body – the bladder is one of those areas – and bring about physiological changes. Relaxation and stress reduction often eliminate frequent urination.
Below is a list of other potential causes of frequent urination:
- Urinary tract infection – An infection in any part of your urinary. Most infections are in the bladder and the urethra.
- Medications – Certain drugs, including diuretics, can lead to increased urination
- Enlarged prostate– This can lead to frequent urination in men.
- Infection of the prostate gland – A bacterial infection that causes frequent urination.
- Kidney infection – Can involve symptoms like cloudy and smelly urine along with urination frequency.
- Overactive bladder– This is a sudden urge to urinate that you can’t control due to unexplained, uncontrolled bladder contractions.
- Tumor or mass in the pelvic area
- Interstitial cystitis– This is inflammation of the bladder wall.
- Bladder cancer
- Bladder dysfunction
- An abnormal opening in the urinary tract
- Urinary incontinence
- Diverticulitis– This is inflammation of the inner lining of the large intestine.
- Diabetes – Can happen when the body tries to rid itself of unused glucose through the urine.
- Diabetes insipidus – An uncommon disorder leading to an intense thirst and excretion of large amounts of water.
- Artificial sweeteners – Known for irritating the bladder, causing frequent urination
- Alcohol and caffeine – can act as a diuretic, leading to increased urination.
- Cystocele– Weakening of the supporting tissue between a woman’s bladder and vaginal wall
- Kidney stones
Symptoms of frequent urination:
- Pain while urinating
- Urine that has a bloody or an unusual color
- Urinary incontinence or gradual loss of bladder control
- Increased urge to urinate but the difficulty in urinating
- An unusual discharge from the vagina or penis
- Increased thirst or appetite
- Lower back pain
Complications associated with frequent urination vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Complications of untreated or poorly controlled diseases, such as diabetes and kidney infection, can be serious and even life-threatening. You can minimize the risk of serious complications of frequent urination by following the treatment plan you and your health care professional design specifically for you.
Underlying causes of frequent urination can lead to serious complications including:
- Diabetic coma
- Permanent kidney damage
- kidney disease, and kidney failure (renal failure)
- Spread of cancer (metastasis)
- Urosepsis and septicemia (blood infection)
Diagnosis and test
Your doctor will perform tests to determine what’s causing you to urinate frequently. They’ll ask you some questions, such as:
When did your symptoms begin?
How often do you urinate?
What other symptoms are you experiencing?
Do you have any unexpected leaking of urine and in what situations?
Your doctor will most likely ask you for a urine sample to check for infection, blood, or other abnormal findings such as protein or sugar.
Your doctor will also conduct an exam of your abdomen and pelvis. This will likely include a pelvic exam and evaluation of your urethra and vagina.
Other tests that can be useful include:
Bladder scan: This is an ultrasound done on your bladder after you’ve urinated to see how much urine is left behind.
Cystoscopy: Using a lighted instrument, the doctor can take a closer look inside the bladder as well as take tissue samples if necessary.
Urinary testing (urodynamic testing): This involves a variety of tests that look to see how well the urinary system is working.
Treatment for frequent urination will address the underlying problem that is causing it. For example, if diabetes is the cause, treatment will involve keeping blood sugar levels under control.
The treatment for overactive bladder should begin with behavioral therapies, such as:
Bladder retraining: This involves increasing the intervals between using the bathroom over the course of about 12 weeks. This helps retrain your bladder to hold urine longer and to urinate less frequently.
Diet modification: You should avoid any food that appears to irritate your bladder or acts as a diuretic. These may include caffeine, alcohol, carbonated drinks, tomato-based products, chocolate, artificial sweeteners, and spicy foods. It’s also important to eat high-fiber foods, because constipation may worsen the symptoms of overactive bladder syndrome.
Monitoring fluid intake: You should drink enough to prevent constipation and over-concentration of urine, but you should avoid drinking just before bedtime, which can lead to night-time urination.
Kegel exercises: These exercises help strengthen the muscles around the bladder and urethra to improve bladder control and reduce urinary urgency and frequency. Exercising pelvic muscles for five minutes three times a day can make a difference in bladder control.
Oxybutynin (Ditropan): Oxybutynin suppresses spasms in the smooth muscles of the bladder wall. Additionally it relaxes the detrusor.
Tolterodine (Detrol, Detrol LA): Tolterodine suppresses spasms in the smooth muscles of the bladder wall. It does not cause the mouth to dry out as much as Oxybutynin.
Solifenacin (Vesicare): Similar to Tolterodine, but with a longer half-life.
Tricyclic antidepressants such as imipramine (Tofranil) and doxepin (Sinequan, Adapin) have also been used to treat overactive bladder with some success. Their mechanism of action is not clear.
- Because there are so many different causes for frequent urination, there is no one way to prevent it. Proper diet and avoiding excess fluids and foods that act as diuretics can reduce urinary frequency.
- Kegel exercises can keep the pelvic floor muscles well-toned and may help stave off urinary frequency as one age.
- Discussing any concerning symptoms with your doctor as soon as they appear may allow for early treatment or may prevent worsening of symptoms.