Frequent urination, where you feel an urge to pass urine more often than usual, is not just a a nuisance and a cause of poor sleep, it can be a symptom of an underlying medical condition.
Polyuria is a medical term that refers to the excessive passing of urine (frequent urination).
Unfortunately many people soldier on, perhaps accepting it as something they have to put up with, or they don't think it is worth bothering the doctor about, or maybe they are scared it might signify something serious.
But often, when they seek diagnosis and treatment, patients find the cause is not serious or harmful, and it is possible to return to normal urinary habits.
For instance, frequent urination can result from drinking too many fluids, particularly those containing caffeine or alcohol. Pregnant women often have the condition, due to the enlarged uterus pressing on the bladder.
However, should it be the case that frequent urination is a symptom of something more serious, then there is even more reason to seek medical attention, because the sooner it is diagnosed and treated, the greater the chance of successful treatment.
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You will also see introductions at the end of some sections to any recent developments that have been covered by MNT's news stories. Also look out for links to information about related conditions.
Fast facts on frequent urination
Here are some key points about frequent urination. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.
- Frequent urination can be a symptom of an underlying medical condition.
- Frequent urination can result from drinking too many fluids
- The average person excretes about 5 to 8 cups (1 to 1.8 litres) of urine every 24 hours.
- Frequent urination is where you pass urine more often than usual. It can sometimes occur with a sudden, compelling urge to urinate, along with bladder discomfort.
- Frequent urination is not the same as urinary incontinence.
- Common causes of frequent urination include diabetes, pregnancy and prostate problems.
- Tests can include urine analysis, imaging tests, neurological tests or urodynamic tests.
- If the cause is an overactive bladder, there are several recommended medications which, in conjunction with behavioral techniques, can increase the chances of successful treatment.
- A study has suggested that people who urinate at least twice at night reduce their bladder cancer risk by 40% to 59%.
Causes of frequent urination
Urination is a complex process involving different muscle groups and types, and an intricate nerve network located in the brain and spine, and in and around the bladder.
It is no wonder therefore that frequent urination can be a symptom of so many different diseases, conditions and disorders, both physiological and psychological.
The main thing to bear in mind is that if frequent urination is unexplained and persistent, then it could be a symptom of something serious. Some drugs, such as diuretics, can also produce this symptom.
Drinking too much fluid before bedtime, especially if it contains caffeine or alcohol, can cause frequent urination at nighttime.
Or frequent urination could simply be a habit, in which case it may still be advisable to eliminate other potential concerns.
The most common causes of frequent urination are diabetes, pregnancy and prostate problems.
Other causes of frequent urination include:
- Medication, for example diuretics
- Stroke, or other brain or nervous system condition
- Infection of the prostate gland (prostatitis)
- Enlarged prostate
- Kidney infection
- Tumor or mass in the pelvic area
- Interstitial cystitis (inflammation of the bladder wall)
- Overactive bladder syndrome (unexplained, uncontrolled bladder contractions)
- Cancer of the bladder
- Dysfunction of the bladder
- Bladder stones
- Urinary incontinence
- Abnormal opening (fistula) in the urinary tract
- Radiation of the pelvis, e.g., to treat cancer
- Diverticulitis (inflammation of diverticulosis, small, bulging sacs or pouches that can develop on the inner lining of the large intestine).
On the next page we look at how the urinary system works and the symptoms of frequent urination. On the final page we look at when you should see the doctor for diagnosis of frequent urination, plus treatment options and how frequent urination could protect from bladder cancer.