Frequent or urgent urination
Urgent urination; Urinary frequency or urgency; Urgency-frequency syndrome; Overactive bladder (OAB) syndrome; Urge syndrome
Frequent urination means needing to urinate more often than usual. Urgent urination is a sudden, strong urge to urinate. This causes a discomfort in your bladder. Urgent urination makes it difficult to delay using the toilet.
A frequent need to urinate at night is called nocturia. Most people can sleep for 6 to 8 hours without having to urinate.
Common causes of these symptoms are:
- Urinary tract infection (UTI)
- Enlarged prostate in middle-aged and older men
- Leakage of urine from the urethra (the tube that carries urine out of your body)
- Swelling and infection of the urethra
- Vaginitis (swelling or discharge of the vulva and vagina)
Less common causes include:
- Alcohol use
- Bladder cancer (not common)
- Drinking caffeine
- Diabetes that is not well controlled
- Interstitial cystitis
- Medicines such as water pills (diuretics)
- Overactive bladder syndrome
- Radiation therapy to the pelvis, which is used to treat certain cancers
- Stroke and other brain or nervous system diseases
- Tumor or growth in the pelvis
Follow the advice of your health care provider to treat the cause of the problem.
It may help to write down the times when you urinate and the amount of urine you produce. Bring this record to your visit with the provider. This is called a voiding diary.
In some cases, you may have problems controlling urine (incontinence) for a period of time. You may need to take steps to protect your clothing and bedding.
For nighttime urination, avoid drinking too much fluid before going to bed. Cut down on the amount of liquids you drink that contain alcohol or caffeine.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your provider right away if:
- You have fever, back or side pain, vomiting, or shaking chills
- You have increased thirst or appetite, fatigue, or sudden weight loss
Also call your provider if:
- You have urinary frequency or urgency, but you are not pregnant and you are not drinking large amounts of fluid.
- You have incontinence or you have changed your lifestyle because of your symptoms.
- You have bloody or cloudy urine.
- There is a discharge from the penis or vagina.
What to Expect at Your Office Visit
Your provider will take a medical history and do a physical exam.
Tests that may be done include:
- Urine culture
- Cystometry (a measurement of the pressure within the bladder)
- Nervous system tests (for some urgency problems)
- Ultrasound (such as an abdominal ultrasound or a pelvic ultrasound)
Treatment depends on the cause of the urgency and frequency. You may need to take antibiotics and medicine to ease your discomfort.
Drake MJ. Overactive bladder. In: Wein AJ, Kavoussi LR, Partin AW, Peters CA, eds. Campbell-Walsh Urology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 76.
Zeidel ML. Obstructive uropathy. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 123.
Last reviewed on: 5/23/2016
Reviewed by: Jennifer Sobol, DO, urologist with the Michigan Institute of Urology, West Bloomfield, MI. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.