If you’re finding yourself having to make more trips to the bathroom than usual throughout the day and night, you may be dealing with frequent urination, which can be a symptom of many conditions. Having to constantly relieve a full bladder is a stressful daily disruption; however, it is usually able to be treated and managed.
Read on to find out the common causes of frequent urination.
What Is Frequent Urination?
Frequent urination is the need to urinate more than is normal throughout the day. Often, the urge to relieve yourself strikes suddenly and may cause you to lose control of your bladder. This can lead to urinary incontinence or the unintentional passing of urine. Frequent urination and urinary incontinence can make you feel as though your bladder is extremely full, often making you rather uncomfortable and consistently disrupting your day[i].
Typically, a person urinates between 6 – 7 times within 24 hours[ii]. Of course, this number varies from person to person, but urinary incontinence may be the culprit if you notice a distinct change in your toilet habits.
Who Experiences Frequent Urination?
Frequent urination in men, women and children is surprisingly common. Needing to urinate more often can be the consequence of several different issues and lifestyle habits, meaning anyone can experience this symptom. However, it can be more common during certain lifetimes or when you have other conditions. You’re more likely to experience frequent urination if you:
- Are pregnant
- Are middle-aged or elderly
- Have an enlarged prostate
Causes of Frequent Urination
Frequent urination can signify many different medical conditions and lifestyle habits. Several factors can cause issues with the process of going to the toilet. Some of the most common causes of frequent urination are:
1) An Overactive Bladder
An overactive bladder causes a frequent urge to urinate that may be uncontrollable. The symptoms of an overactive bladder include:
- A sudden urge to urinate that is difficult to control
- Urgency incontinence or the unintentional loss of urine brought on by the need to urinate
- Urinary incontinence
- Frequent urination
- Waking up more than two times a night to urinate[iii]
An overactive bladder isn’t a disease but rather a collection of symptoms that may have been brought on by one of several causes. The most common causes of an overactive bladder are:
- Damaged nerves from abdominal or pelvic trauma or surgery
- Neurological diseases
- Bladder stones
- Bladder or prostate cancer
- Side effects of certain drugs
About 12% of the UK’s population have an overactive bladder[iv], making this one of the most common causes of urination issues.
2) Urinary Tract Infections
A urinary tract infection (UTI) occurs when bacteria enter the urethra – the tube that carries urine out of the body – and travels into the bladder, causing the urinary system to swell. Symptoms of a UTI include:
- Pain in the lower abdomen
- Burning or pain when urinating
- A strong urge to urinate but not producing a lot of urine
- Urinary incontinence
- Foul-smelling urine
Some people are more prone to UTIs than others. For example, women get UTIs up to 30 times more than men do[v], though some women are more perceptible than others. This is because women’s urethras are shorter than men’s, meaning bacteria is more likely to reach the bladder. Urinary tract infections are usually caused by bacteria, typically from faeces, entering the urinary tract. This often occurs during sex, from using certain types of birth control or from wiping back to front.
3) Urinary Incontinence
Urinary incontinence is the loss of control over your bladder, meaning you pass urine unintentionally. There are several types of urinary incontinence; however, the most common are stress incontinence and urge incontinence. Stress incontinence is when you leak urine when your bladder is under sudden pressure – for example, when you cough or sneeze. Urge incontinence is when an intense need to relieve yourself comes on suddenly. Usually, urge incontinence is a sign of an overactive bladder.
Urinary incontinence has various causes depending on the type you have. However, common causes are:
- Damage to/pressure on the pelvis muscles
- Damage to the bladder
- Neurological conditions
- Bladder stones
- Certain medications
Several other signs of urinary incontinence indicate this issue may be a different type of incontinence. If in doubt, it’s best to visit your GP.
Frequent urination is a common symptom of diabetes, whether you have Type 1 or Type 2. Diabetes causes your body to struggle creating or using insulin, which encourages glucose into the cells to use as energy. Usually, this elevates blood sugar levels. Too much sugar in the blood overworks the kidneys, which can’t process the excess sugar and releases it through frequent urination[vi]. Other symptoms this can cause are:
- Extreme hunger
- Increased thirst
- Weight loss
- Ketones in urine
- Frequent infections, like gums or skin infections[vii]
Around 90% of all adults in the UK with diabetes have Type 2[viii]. However, you can control this type with lifestyle changes and medications. If you think your frequent urination may be caused by diabetes, you should see a doctor as soon as possible.
5) Prostate Issues
The prostate is a gland present only in men that makes some of the fluid found in ejaculation. As the body grows, so does the prostate. However, issues often occur if the prostate gets too large. Symptoms of prostate issues include:
- Difficulty starting or stopping urinating
- Feeling as though you can’t fully empty your bladder
- Waking up throughout the night to urinate
- Pain when urinating
- Straining during urination
Other prostate issues that can cause frequent urination are prostatitis and prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer among men, with 1 in 8 men estimated to be diagnosed with the disease during his lifetime[ix]. Because of this, if you have any of the additional symptoms listed above, it’s vital that you get a professional diagnosis.
When a person is pregnant, their bladder can get squashed as the baby takes up more space. This leads to frequent urination and, if this is the case, it’s nothing to worry about as frequent urination is a common side effect. Usually, you are more likely to experience this symptom during your first and third trimesters since the baby will be in the uterus during this time. Frequent urination should stop not long after the birth.
Managing Frequent Urination
If you experience frequent urination, you should consult with a GP or doctor. They will take steps to understand what is going on, provide a diagnosis, and advise you on treatment and management. Here are a few ways in which you might manage frequent urination.
There are a few practices doctors may recommend you start that may help your urination issues. Many people find that several of these lifestyle changes and self-help actions are enough to alleviate their symptoms.
- Pelvic floor exercises to strengthen the pelvic muscles
- Regular exercise
- Maintaining a healthy diet
- Drinking enough water
- Cutting down on caffeine and alcohol
- Quitting smoking
A doctor might prescribe certain medications to assist with bladder control issues, such as intense urinary urges, frequent urination and leakage.
Medication and healthy habits may be an effective treatment regime.
Sometimes, other treatments and changes can’t help to relieve frequent urination. If this is the case, your doctor may recommend surgical solutions. The surgeries you may be offered depend on the issues you are facing.
It’s important to thoroughly discuss the risks and benefits of any surgeries offered with a specialist. Your options may be affected by other conditions and whether you plan to have a pregnancy. For example, effects of other conditions and childbirth can sometimes cause surgical treatments to fail, so you must discuss these with your specialist too.
If your frequent urination is caused by incontinence, your GP may advise the use of incontinence products to help you to manage the condition, alongside a treatment plan (which will vary from person-to-person). You should always consult with your GP or local Bladder & Bowel service if you experience symptoms of incontinence. They will ensure you get the correct help.
Understanding causes for frequent urination
Frequent urination and urinary incontinence may be embarrassing, but they are often caused by issues that you and your doctor can discuss and effectively manage.