In most people, the bladder is able to store urine until there is a convenient time to go to the toilet, which typically is four to eight times a day. When you need to go more than eight times a day or when you have to wake up at night to go to the bathroom could mean you have been drinking too much when it is close to bedtime. Or it could be a sign of a health problem.
Many people live with frequent urination, medically known as the frequency in urination. When a person urinates more than 3 liters a day, it is known as polyuria. There is often a simple cause that can be corrected through treatment.
Frequent urination is not the same as urinary inconsistency, which is characterized by leakage of urine. In some cases, frequent urination indicates a more serious condition. Early identification of the problem can lead to an effective and timely treatment to prevent complications.
Symptoms of frequent urination
The main symptom of polyuria or excessive urination is urinating frequently. If the condition is accompanied by other symptoms, it can be indicative of another, possibly more serious condition.
Nocturia is the need to urinate at night, during the sleep cycle. This can be a symptom of diabetes insipidus or diabetes mellitus.
Other symptoms that need further attention include:
- discomfort or pain while urinating
- bloody, cloudy, or unusual color of the urine
- the difficulty in urinating even when there is the urge
- a gradual loss of bladder control or urinary incontinence
- fever or chills
- discharge from the vagina or penis
- nausea or vomiting
- lower back or side pain
if other symptoms are present, or when urinary frequency affects the quality of life, you should see a doctor.
Frequent urination can indicate a kidney infection. If left untreated, this may permanently damage the kidneys. Also, the bacteria that are causing the infection may enter the bloodstream and infect other areas of your body. This can become life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention.
Causes of Urinating Frequently
Frequent urination could be symptoms of various problems from simply drinking too much fluid to kidney disease. When frequent urination is accompanied by fever, an urgent need to urinate, and pain or discomfort in the abdomen, you may have a urinary tract infection. Other possible causes include:
- Diabetes – Frequent urination involving an abnormally large amount of urine is an early symptom of diabetes, both type 1 and type 2. You are urinating frequently as your body tries to get rid of unused glucose through the urine.
- Pregnancy – The growing uterus places pressure on the bladder, causing frequent urination during the early weeks of pregnancy.
- Prostate problems – An enlarged prostate could be pressing against the urethra and block the flow of urine. This results in the bladder wall becoming irritable. The bladder will start contracting even with a small amount of urine, causing more frequent urination.
- Use of diuretic – Diuretics are medications used for the treatment of high blood pressure or fluid buildup. They work by flushing out excess fluids from the body, resulting in frequent urination.
- Interstitial cystitis – This condition, whose cause is still unknown, is characterized by pain in the bladder and pelvic region. The symptoms often include an urgent or frequent need to urinate.
- Stroke or other neurological diseases – When the nerves that supply the bladder are damaged, it may lead to problems with bladder function, such as frequent or sudden urges to urinate.
Other causes of frequent urination include bladder dysfunction, bladder cancer, and radiation therapy.
In many cases, frequent urination is not a symptom of a problem but is the problem. In people with overactive bladder syndrome, involuntary contractions of the bladder may lead to frequent and often urgent urination, which means that you have to go to the bathroom right now, even if the bladder is not full yet. It may also wake you up once or more during the night to use the bathroom.
Diagnosis and Treatment
A doctor will conduct a thorough history and physical examination, asking you about the frequency of urination and other symptoms.
The doctor may ask about:
- the pattern of frequent urination, such as when it started, how things have changed, and the time of the day it occurs
- current medications you are taking
- how fluid you are consuming
- any changes in the smell, color, or consistency of your urine
- how much caffeine and alcohol you consume, and whether this has recently changed.
The doctor may conduct the following tests:
- urine analysis to identify any abnormality in your urine
- a plain film X-ray or CT scan of the pelvis and abdomen
- ultrasound for a visual image of the kidneys
- neurological tests to detect any nerve disorder
- testing for sexually transmitted infections
A man or woman may be referred to a urologist while a woman may be referred to a gynecologist.
Urodynamic tests are used in assessing how effective is the urinary bladder in storing and releasing urine. The tests also examine the function of the urethra.
The observations include:
- recording the time it takes to produce a urinary stream
- noting the amount of urine produced
- gauging the ability to stop urinating mid-stream
To get precise measurements, the healthcare professional may use:
- imaging equipment to see the filling and emptying of the bladder
- monitors to measure the pressure inside the bladder
- sensors to record the activity of the muscle and nerve
Treatment of frequent urination depends on the underlying cause.
If the consultation leads to a diagnosis of diabetes mellitus, treatment will aim to control the blood sugar.
In case of a bacterial kidney infection, the usual course of treatment is painkiller and antibiotic therapy.
If frequent urination is due to an overactive bladder, a medication – anticholinergic – may be used. This will prevent abnormal involuntary detrusor muscle contractions from occurring in the bladder’s wall.
When prescribed, medication therapy will be monitored by a physician.
Help could also be derived from training in behavior techniques.
Bladder training and exercises
There are treatments that address frequent urination instead of addressing an underlying cause.
Kegel exercises – Regular daily exercises can strengthen the muscles of the pelvis and urethra and support the bladder. The exercise is often done around pregnancy. Best results will be achieved if the exercise will be performed 10 to 20 times per set, thrice daily, for at least 4 to 8 weeks.
Biofeedback – Biofeedback therapy is often used alongside Kegel exercises. It enables the person to become more aware of how the body functions. This will increase his awareness, which can help improve his control of the pelvic muscles.
Bladder training – This involves training the bladder to hold urine longer than usual. The training may last up to 3 months.
Monitoring fluid intake – The monitoring may show that drinking more water at certain times is the main reason behind frequent urination.
You can help moderate your urine output by eating a balanced diet and maintaining an active lifestyle. This means limiting the intake of alcohol and caffeine and cutting out foods that may irritate the bladder or act as a diuretic, such as spicy foods, chocolate, and artificial sweeteners.
The consumption of high-fiber foods may also help reduce constipation, which may help improve urine flow through the urethra, because a constipated rectum puts undue pressure on the urethra, urinary bladder, or both.
What are the normal conditions
Urination is the way the body gets rid of waste fluids. Urine contains water, urea, uric acid, and wastes and toxins from within the body. The kidneys play an important role in this process.
Urine remains in the urinary bladder until reaching a point of fullness and you also feel an urge to urinate. When you reach this point, the urine needs to be expelled from the body.
Urinary frequency is different from urinary incontinence, which refers to a person having very little control over his bladder. Urinary frequency simply means that you need to visit the bathroom to urinate more often. It may occur together with urinary incontinence, but, they are not the same.
Most people urinate between 4 and 8 times over a 24-hour period. Urinary frequency can be defined as the need to urinate more than 8 times in a 24-hour period while drinking about 2 liters of fluid.
Individuals are different and many people see a doctor only when urination becomes very frequent that it becomes uncomfortable. Children have smaller urinary bladders, so it is normal for them to urinate more frequently.
Risk of Having Urinating Frequently
Several factors may be linked to frequent urination, such as:
- diseases, infection, irritation, or injury of the bladder
- conditions that increase the production of urine
- changes in nerves, muscles, or other tissues that affect the function of the bladder
- certain treatments for cancer
- drugs or beverages that increase urine production
When to Seek Medical Attention
You need to immediately contact your doctor right away if you urinate frequently with any of these signs or symptoms:
- blood in your urine
- painful urination
- red or dark-brown urine
- pain in your side, groin, or lower abdomen
- difficulty urinating or emptying your bladder
- a strong urge to urinate
- loss of bladder control
Disorders in the urinary tract may cause the above symptoms, but other serious diseases or health conditions can cause them also. Seek medical help to find out the cause of your frequent urination and how to treat it.