Frequent Urination: How Often Is Too Often?


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Most adults urinate four to seven times a day. But some health conditions can send you in search of a bathroom 10, 20, even 30 or more times daily. And that can seriously cramp your ability to do anything else. Whether you're in a business meeting, at a movie, or in the car with your family, you're always thinking about your next bathroom break.

Two bladder conditions that often cause frequent urination are interstitial cystitis (IC) and overactive bladder. Fortunately, both conditions are treatable. First, however, you need to recognize that you have a medical problem and seek help for it. Here are some tip-offs that it may be time to see a doctor.

Time to make an appointment?

You are urinating more frequently than normal if you:

  • Urinate eight or more times in a 24-hour period, or

  • Get up to urinate two or more times a night

The problem can be much more than a minor annoyance. If you urinate too frequently during the day, you may miss out on things you want to do because you're always in the bathroom or afraid to wander too far from a toilet. If you urinate too frequently at night, you may not sleep well. Your loved ones are affected, too, whenever you stop the car, cut back on activities, or repeatedly get up at night.

If visits to the bathroom are controlling your life, it's time to talk with your doctor.

What's causing my problem?

Frequent urination can be caused by many different conditions. Examples include an enlarged prostate, diabetes, pregnancy, urinary tract infections, anxiety, or certain medications (such as diuretics). In some cases, frequent urination may simply be a habit.

Two other common causes—IC and overactive bladder—are easily confused. Both are bladder conditions that can lead to frequent urination, day and night. Plus, both can cause strong, sudden urges to urinate, called urinary urgency. These clues can help you tell the two conditions apart:

  • IC causes pain in and around the bladder, but overactive bladder does not. With IC, the pain often gets worse as the bladder fills and eases when the bladder is emptied. To get temporary relief from the pain, people with untreated, severe IC may urinate as many as 60 times a day.

  • Overactive bladder often causes urine leaks, but IC usually does not. People with overactive bladder may feel a sudden, strong urge to urinate but be unable to make it to a toilet in time. Some go to the bathroom frequently in an effort to head off embarrassing accidents.

To diagnose the cause of frequent urination, your doctor will consider other symptoms that are present. He or she may recommend diagnostic tests to confirm or rule out a particular disease. For example, your doctor might order a urine test or an examination of the bladder using a special scope. You also may need to see a specialist of the urinary tract, called a urologist or gynecologic urologist.

Diagnosis is the first step toward finding treatment for frequent urination. When you're always having to stop because you have to go, the right treatment can transform your life. 

Medical Reviewers: Susan Shaw, MD Last Review Date: Aug 31, 2010

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