Frequent urination

Medical quality assurance by Dr. Albrecht Nonnenmacher, MD at December 10, 2015
StartSymptomsFrequent urination

Frequent urination means having to urinate more often than what is normal. The explanation for it could be something simple, or it could indicate something far more serious. Many factors could cause it, and a potential problem could exist somewhere between the kidneys and the urethra (the point where urine leaves the body).


Definition & Facts

The problem of frequent urination can occur in people of any age, but it will be a common problem in the elderly. There are two main types of frequent urination. The first type is the result of an increase in the amount of urine produced; and the second type is because of a dysfunction in either storing or eliminating the urine. Several issues may stem from having to urinate frequently. This may include:


People will normally urinate about four to eight times daily. Having to urinate more often than this may simply be the result of drinking too many fluids, or drinking too many diuretics, such as coffee, tea, alcohol, and fruit juices. It could also be the result of eliminating only small amounts of urine each time, rather than completely emptying the bladder. A third possible reason is that there could be a much more serious problem causing the frequent urination. Some of the more common causes of frequent urination include:

Women are more likely to experience frequent urination problems. This problem may occur as a result of a urinary tract infection, which about half of all women will experience at some point, and during hormonal changes (pregnancy or menopause). There is a difference between frequent urination and urinary incontinence. Urinary incontinence refers to the total loss of control, and there will usually be leakage with a sneeze or cough.

When to see a doctor

Because there is a possibility of a more serious problem, there are occasions when professional help is needed for a diagnosis. When a rather obvious cause is not present, such as drinking too many fluids, and when it is interrupting normal activities or sleep, it is time to seek medical help. If the presence of one or more of the following symptoms is also present, it is time to see a doctor:

Depending on the nature of the cause of the frequent urination, there could be a number of tests used to discover the reason. It will most likely start out with urinalysis, in which the urine will be analyzed chemically. Other tests that might follow include:

Treatment & Therapy

Once the cause is discovered, then the treatment will follow to deal with the cause. If diabetes is causing the frequent urination, for instance, then the treatment will be directed toward reducing high sugar levels. If there is no other medical cause, then some lifestyle changes may be recommended, which may include:

  • Modifying the diet – learning to watch what and how much is consumed in the way of food and drink. Certain foods will need to be reduced, such as caffeine, sodas, chocolate, tomato-based products, artificial sweeteners, and spicy foods.
  • Retraining of the bladder – the goal is to work at holding urine longer. Retraining lasts about 12 weeks.
  • Kegel exercises – these exercises are designed to strengthen the muscles in the pelvic floor, which are the muscles around the bladder. Performing these exercises for just five minutes at a time, three times a day, will bring about a noticeable difference.

Medications may also be used to control this problem. The presence of a kidney infection, for instance, will require antibiotics. Another class of medications often prescribed is called anticholinergics. These drugs focus on the muscles (detrusor muscle) that are responsible to squeeze the urine out of the bladder. In some cases, Botox is injected into the bladder to make it relax, enabling it to hold more urine.

In most cases, medications are sufficient to resolve the problem, as long as the recommended lifestyle changes are also being followed. If that fails, surgery may be used in some cases to provide a solution. One type involves implanting nerve stimulators under the skin which help control the muscles in the pelvic floor. They can also help cause contractions in the organs and muscles in it.

Two types of nerve stimulation treatments are percutaneous tibial nerve stimulation (PTNS), which is the least invasive, and requires ongoing treatments once a week for about 12 weeks. Another surgical procedure is called sacral nerve stimulation (SNS), which also uses an implanted device. It sends electrical impulses near the sacral nerve, which helps control the muscles in your bladder, the pelvic floor muscles, and in the sphincter.

Prevention & Prophylaxis

There is no single way to prevent frequent urination. If there are other symptoms, go to a doctor first to ensure that no other problems are present. It is not advised to drink less than eight glasses of water a day because the body needs it.

However, do not drink a lot of water too close to bedtime. Start using Kegel exercises to strengthen the muscles around the bladder. In the meantime, realize that one benefit of frequent urination has been found. It seems that getting up once or twice at night to urinate has been discovered to reduce bladder cancer by 40 or more percent.

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