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8 Causes of Frequent Urination

Annoying and disruptive, frequent urination can be common. Learn how to get relief.
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Last updated March 15, 2021

Frequent urination questionnaire

Answer our clinicians’ questions to learn if your frequent urination is serious and get a UTI treatment prescription for $25 if necessary.

Frequent urination questionnaire

Answer our clinicians’ questions to learn if your frequent urination is serious and get a UTI treatment prescription for $25 if necessary.

See frequent urination treatment options

Only available in: CA, NY, TX, FL, IL, NC, PA, OH, MI, and WA

Why are you peeing a lot?

Urinary frequency means you have to urinate (pee) often, which can interfere with your normal day-to-day life. You’re always on the lookout for a restroom and cannot go long periods of time (less than 2 to 3 hours) without using the bathroom. You always need the aisle seat at the movies or on an airplane and have to make multiple pit stops on road trips.

At night it is difficult to sleep without being woken up multiple times by your bladder (known as nocturia). You may even have to wear an adult diaper or pads for fear of wetting your clothes. The severity of urinary frequency can vary, but it can easily interfere with your quality of life.

Other symptoms include feeling the need to urgently urinate (urgency), having trouble holding urine in (incontinence), having pelvic pain or pressure, or feeling like you can never fully empty your bladder.

Common causes of frequent urination include dietary factors, urinary tract infections, bladder conditions, or difficulty emptying your bladder.

Common treatment of frequent urination include:

  • Healthy lifestyle changes
  • Avoiding foods and beverages that can irritate the bladder
  • Treatment for urinary tract infections or other underlying conditions
  • Medications to help the bladder empty or stop the bladder from overworking

Dr. Rx

Urinary frequency doesn’t need to be treated unless it bothers you. But don’t just accept it as part of getting older. If it bothers you, then let’s see what we can do to fix it. —Dr. Jason Chandrapal

Causes

1. Urinary tract infection

Symptoms

A urinary tract infection (UTI) can occur in women and men. UTIs occur when bacteria irritate the lining of the urinary system, most commonly the bladder.

A UTI usually needs to be treated with antibiotics. It’s important to seek treatment and take antibiotics as prescribed, as UTIs can become severe.

2. Benign prostatic hypertrophy (enlarged prostate)

Symptoms

  • Frequent urge to urinate
  • Waiting for the urine stream to start
  • Weak stream
  • Leakage of a small volume of urine immediately or shortly after urinating (post void dribbling)
  • Feeling like bladder does not fully empty 

The prostate gland in men helps produce semen, the fluid that contains sperm. Over many years, the cells of this gland can become enlarged (or hypertrophy). Fortunately, an enlarged prostate is not dangerous. Benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) is not prostate cancer and does not increase the risk of prostate cancer.

It does, however, compress the urethra, the tube that passes through the prostate as it carries urine out of the body. An enlarged prostate can obstruct the flow of urine making it difficult to empty the bladder, leading to frequent urination.

BPH is a chronic, progressive disease, with symptoms worsening over time. Serious complications can occur when there is significant obstruction of the urinary tract, though this is relatively uncommon.

Symptoms of BPH consist of urinary frequency, urgency, waiting for the urine stream to start, weak stream, post-void dribbling, and the feeling that you did not empty your bladder.

You can treat mild symptoms with lifestyle changes such as avoidance of bladder irritants, timed or scheduled urinating, or limiting liquids before bed.

More severe symptoms can be treated with medication or surgery. Medications for BPH work by either opening the portion of the urethra that travels through the prostate or by shrinking the entire prostate. There are many surgical options currently available and it is recommended you speak to a urologist to discuss which one may be right for you.

Frequent urination questionnaire

Answer our clinicians’ questions to learn if your frequent urination is serious and get a UTI treatment prescription for $25 if necessary.

See frequent urination treatment options

Only available in: CA, NY, TX, FL, IL, NC, PA, OH, MI, and WA

3. Yeast infections

Symptoms

  • Change in vaginal discharge, which may be clumpy or foul-smelling
  • Discomfort while urinating or feeling like you need to urinate frequently
  • Redness in vulvar area
  • Itching in vulvar area
  • Swelling in the genital area

A yeast infection is an infection of the vagina, most commonly caused by the fungus Candida albicans. The fungus occurs naturally and doesn’t always cause a problem. However, when there is overgrowth of the fungus, which can happen after taking antibiotics, it can lead to a yeast infection.

Treatment may include anti-fungal medication, which can be over-the-counter or prescribed. Some women have frequent yeast infections. If you have never had a yeast infection before, go to the doctor before using an over-the-counter medication to rule out other conditions, such as sexually transmitted infections.

4. Kidney stones

Symptoms

  • Back, flank (side of your torso), or abdominal pain
  • Blood in the urine
  • Frequent urination
  • Bladder pain
  • Fever or chills

Kidney stones are stones that form in the kidney, caused by a crystallization of some component of your urine. Kidney stones are generally due to not drinking enough water but there may be other causes.

They start to create symptoms when they pass, or move towards the bladder. They generally start as pain in the sides of your torso or back that can radiate to the groin. As the stone passes and makes its way towards the bladder, symptoms may change causing urinary urgency and blood in the urine.

They can be very painful. Depending on the size and location, they may be treated with either symptom management, to help pass the stone on its own, or surgery. There is a risk of it getting infected, which can make you critically ill. If you develop fevers or chills, seek immediate medical attention.

5. Type 2 diabetes

Symptoms

  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Weight loss
  • High levels of sugar in your blood
  • Blurred vision
  • Numbness in the hands and feet

Type 2 diabetes means you have high blood sugar levels. It happens when your body does not properly use a hormone called insulin to move sugar (glucose) into the cells of your muscles. It is important to get treatment at the first sign of these symptoms, because the high blood sugar levels can cause serious organ damage. Heart disease, neuropathy, kidney damage, and blindness can all result from untreated type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes can cause urinary frequency in two ways: increased thirst making you feel the need to urinate more or inflammation of the bladder itself.

Diagnosis is made through a series of blood tests to measure blood sugar levels. Type 2 diabetes cannot be cured, but you can control your blood sugar levels through lifestyle changes and medication.

6. Prostatitis

Symptoms

  • Frequent urge to urinate
  • Bladder pain
  • Pain with urination
  • Dull, achy pain that feels like pressure in the pelvis

Prostatitis is an infection or inflammation of the prostate gland. The prostate gland helps make semen, the fluid that contains sperm. You can have acute prostatitis (symptoms last for a few days) or chronic (symptoms last for a few weeks). If it’s caused by bacteria, it’s called bacterial prostatitis; if not, it’s called inflammatory prostatitis.

Treatment depends on the type of prostatitis. For bacterial prostatitis, you’ll be prescribed antibiotics. Inflammatory prostatitis may require a stepwise holistic treatment approach including lifestyle changes, pelvic floor therapy, or medication.

7. Bladder cancer

Symptoms

  • Blood in urine
  • Frequently and urgently needing to urinate
  • Painful urination
  • Feeling like your bladder isn’t completely voiding

Your bladder stores urine until it is passed from the body. Cancer occurs within the lining of the bladder and tends to cause symptoms such as frequency and urgency. It usually causes blood in the urine, which may be visible or only seen with a microscope.

If it’s diagnosed in early stages, when the cancer is still confined to the bladder lining, bladder cancer is very treatable with surgery. The majority of people diagnosed with bladder cancer are over 55 and have a history of smoking. Diagnosis is done through a urine sample, imaging, and cystoscopy (directly looking in the bladder with a camera) performed in the office.

Frequent urination questionnaire

Answer our clinicians’ questions to learn if your frequent urination is serious and get a UTI treatment prescription for $25 if necessary.

See frequent urination treatment options

Only available in: CA, NY, TX, FL, IL, NC, PA, OH, MI, and WA

8. Interstitial cystitis

Symptoms

  • Frequent urge to urinate
  • Bladder pain
  • Pain in the lower abdomen
  • Pain during sexual intercourse

Painful bladder syndrome, also called interstitial cystitis or IC, is a chronic condition of pain and discomfort in the urinary tract.

The cause is unknown and is considered a diagnosis of exclusion, which means other more common causes must be explored before making a diagnosis. It may be an autoimmune disorder and is often found with fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, or vulvodynia (pain in the outer female organs.) Some researchers feel the condition may be linked to a history of abuse.

IC is more common in women than in men, but can happen to anyone. There is no single cure, so treatment is a stepwise holistic plan that involves lifestyle changes, pelvic floor therapy, addressing the symptoms with medication, and even surgery.

Other possible causes

Frequent urination may also be caused by other issues.

  • Compression of the bladder by other organs, such as an enlarged uterus during pregnancy or uterine fibroids.
  • Certain sexually transmitted infections, like gonorrhea and chlamydia may also cause frequent urination or discomfort while urinating.
  • Diuretics—foods or medications that remove excess fluid from your body
  • Some medications, foods, and drinks, such as caffeine and excess alcohol, can cause you to urinate more.
  • Anxiety can also cause an urge to urinate.

Pro Tip

Ask your doctor: How long will it take for the treatments to start working? —Dr. Chandrapal

When to call the doctor

  • Frequent urination is interfering with sleep or quality of life
  • Frequent urination is getting worse
  • You are experiencing new incontinence
  • You feel like your bladder isn’t emptying completely
  • You’re experiencing pelvic pain

Should I go to the ER for frequent urination?

You should go to the ER if you have these symptoms, which may need urgent medical attention:

  • Inability to urinate
  • Blood in your urine
  • Fever
  • Severe pelvic pain that may radiate to your back

Pro Tip

Treatment is approached in a stepwise manner that starts conservatively and expands. But the most important thing is to know that you, the patient, drives the boat. —Dr. Chandrapal

Treatment for frequent urination

At-home care

  • Assess your diet for diuretics and bladder irritants. Try to limit alcohol or caffeinated drinks and spicy foods.
  • Avoid drinking fluids before bed.
  • Stagger fluid intake throughout the day.
  • Timed or scheduled urination.
  • Smoking cessation.
  • Consuming cranberry juice.
  • Take an over-the-counter medication such as AZO.

Other treatment options

  • Urinalysis (urine sample)
  • Diagnostic imaging
  • Medication management
  • Surgery
Share your story
Dr. Chandrapal is the current Interprofessional Advanced Clinical Simulation Fellow at the VA medical center in Durham, NC. Prior to his current position he was a urology resident at Duke University. Originally from Houston, TX he went to undergrad at the University of Texas in Austin, followed by a masters degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, and medical schoo...
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