Need to wee more often than usual? We look at the symptoms, causes and treatment for frequent urination.
Medically reviewed by Dr Louise Wiseman MBBS, BSc (Hons), DRCOG, MRCGP and words by Claire Chamberlain
Can’t stop dashing to the toilet? Frequent urination means you feel the urge to wee more regularly than is normal for you. If you just drank six cups of tea then it might be nothing to worry about, but if your need to urinate is unusual and persistent then it could be the sign of an infection or underlying medical condition.
Frequent urination is not the same as urinary incontinence, which is when you can’t control your bladder, so you pass urine when you don’t want to. Frequent urination is normally only considered a problem if it’s interfering with your daily life, or if you experience additional symptoms, such as pain, fever or blood in your urine.
We spoke to GP Dr Riccardo Di Cuffa about the signs and symptoms of frequent urination and when to visit your GP:
What’s a normal amount to wee per day?
While needing to wee fairly often can be perfectly normal, if you need to urinate so frequently that it interferes with your work, your hobbies or your sleep, you might have a problem that needs investigating. So, what is normal?
Most people urinate six to seven times every 24 hours, although between four and 10 times a day can be normal for some, says Dr Di Cuffa. ‘If you drink a lot or you are pregnant, for example, you are more likely to need to urinate. Also, some medications, such as diuretics for high blood pressure, might make you need to go for a wee more often,’ he adds.
What is frequent urination?
If you find yourself dashing to the toilet more than 10 times a day, it could simply be because you’re drinking too much water or caffeine, which acts like a diuretic.
‘The measure of the problem is whether you are needing to urinate more often than normal because you have an overactive bladder, a weak bladder or a urine infection,’ says Dr Di Cuffa. ‘Both men and women can be affected, and when a person needs to urinate frequently at night, it is called nocturia.’
Frequent urination causes
The most common cause of frequent urination is a urinary tract infection (UTI), which occurs when bacteria invade the urethra. It is common to have burning or pain when weeing if you have an infection. If your increased need to urinate is accompanied by blood in your urine and abdominal pain, make an appointment to see your GP. Symptoms can worsen considerably if the UTI spreads to your kidneys, so it’s important to seek medical attention.
Other possible frequent urination causes include:
- Drinking too much alcohol or caffeine.
- Pure habit.
- Diuretic medication.
- Stress or anxiety.
- Kidney or bladder stones.
- Prostate or gynaecological abnormality.
- Menopause symptoms – causing dryness and genitourinary syndrome.
- Interstitial cystitis – this is a diagnosis made by a specialist Urology doctor.
- Urge incontinence – feeling the need to dash to the toilet quickly, which may be part of overactive bladder syndrome.
Make an urgent appointment with your GP if you experience frequent urination alongside any of these additional symptoms:
- Loss of bladder control
- Blood in your urine, or red or dark brown urine
- Pain while urinating
- Pain in your side, lower abdomen or groin
- Difficulty urinating or emptying your bladder totally
- Any lumps or bumps in your pelvic area
What will your doctor do?
If you think you might be suffering from frequent urination, your GP will discuss your medical history with you, to learn about any health issues you have and when the problem started.
‘Your doctor may then gently examine your abdomen and pelvis, and on occasion maybe your genitals and rectum,’ explains Dr Di Cuffa. ‘You may be asked to do a mid stream urine sample that they can test on the spot for abnormalities, which may indicate an infection.’
‘The sample may be sent off to a laboratory and tested, to look for bacteria or white blood cells,’ he adds. ‘which could indicate a urinary tract infection; evidence of blood or protein, which could be a sign of a kidney problem; or glucose, which could signal diabetes. You might also have a neurological exam, to look for problems in your nervous system that may affect your ability to urinate.’
Frequent urination treatment
Depending on the cause your doctor can advise you on the best method of treatment for frequent urination, but if you have an infection you will likely need to take a course of antibiotics.
‘If you have an infection, antibiotics will usually quickly clear it up,’ says Dr Di Cuffa. ‘There are also other medications that relax the bladder, which can be helpful for relieving symptoms of an overactive bladder and reducing episodes of urge incontinence. In some severe cases, bladder injections may be used, to stop severe urge incontinence. Nerve stimulation or surgery may also be considered.’
Medicines to help an overactive bladder can have side effects such as dry mouth so it might be a case of trying which one is best for you.
If you have an overactive bladder and other causes have been excluded, it is worth considering making a few lifestyle changes beyond planning shopping trips around toilet locations. Reducing caffeine can help in the day and reducing night time fluid intake can help reduce nocturia. Dr Di Cuffa recommends the following:
- Regular pelvic floor exercises
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Bladder training, with scheduled toilet trips
- Eating a fibre-rich diet, with plenty of fruit and veg, to avoid constipation
Bladder training can be really helpful for many sufferers if the problem is partly from habit and partly from managing an overactive bladder. It helps the sufferer interpret signals from the bladder and brain and manage the problem by retraining patterns of behaviour for these very real symptoms.