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Frequent or urgent urination

Frequent urination means needing to urinate more often than usual. Urgent urination is a sudden, strong urge to urinate, along with discomfort in your bladder.

A frequent need to urinate at night is called nocturia. Most people can sleep for 6 to 8 hours without having to urinate.

Causes

Common causes of these symptoms are:

Less common causes include:

  • Alcohol use
  • Anxiety
  • Bladder cancer (not common)
  • Drinking caffeine
  • Diabetes that is not well controlled
  • Pregnancy
  • 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

Home Care

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 health care provider.

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 health care 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 health care 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 health care provider will take a medical history and do a physical exam.

Tests that may be done include:

Treatment depends on the cause of the urgency and frequency. You may need to take antibiotics and medicine to ease your discomfort.

Alternative Names

Urgent urination; Urinary frequency or urgency

References

Drake M, Abrams P. Overactive bladder. In: Wein AJ, ed. Campbell-Walsh Urology. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 66.

Zeidel ML. Obstructive uropathy. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 125.

Lentz GM. Urogynecology. Physiology of micturition, voiding dysfunction, urinary incontinence, urinary tract infections, and painful bladder syndrome. In: Lentz GM, Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, Katz VL, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2012:chap 21.

Update Date: 6/2/2014

Updated by: Scott Miller, MD, Urologist in private practice in Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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