If a person has a constant urge to pee but nothing comes out when they go, they may have an infection or other health condition.

If a person frequently needs to pee but little comes out when they try to go, it can be due to a urinary tract infection (UTI), pregnancy, an overactive bladder, or an enlarged prostate.

Less often, some forms of cancer can cause this.

This article looks at the possible causes, diagnosis, treatments, and prevention of common urinary problems.

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UTIs commonly cause a frequent urge to pee. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), UTIs can occur anywhere in the urinary tract, but they most often affect the bladder. This is also called cystitis.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) note that UTIs are very common, especially in females. A person can develop a UTI when bacteria enter the urinary tract.

If a person has a UTI, they may have a frequent urge to pee, even when little comes out when they try to go.

According to the CDC, other symptoms of a UTI include:

  • a burning sensation when urinating
  • a low body temperature
  • cloudy or bloody urine
  • cramping in the lower abdomen or groin


A person can reduce their risk of developing a UTI by:

  • urinating when they need to
  • urinating before and after sex
  • wiping from front to back
  • drinking plenty of fluids
  • cleaning the anus and genitals every day
  • avoiding douching or using hygiene sprays
  • avoiding wearing underwear that can trap moisture
  • taking showers rather than baths

If a person is pregnant, they might feel the urge to urinate more frequently.

In the early stage of pregnancy, this is because the body releases a hormone that increases blood flow to the pelvic region.

Later in pregnancy, they may feel the need to urinate more often due to the fetus putting pressure on their bladder.

If a person has an overactive bladder, they may feel the urge to urinate even when there is little urine in the bladder.

Having an overactive bladder causes the bladder muscles to squeeze too often. This can lead to the frequent need to urinate.

Various neurological conditions can cause overactive bladder, but sometimes, the cause can be unknown. A variety of medications can treat OAB, but a doctor will first need to rule out a urinary tract infection (UTI) and cancer before starting treatment.

The prostate is a gland near the bladder that produces semen. As males age, their prostate becomes larger.

An enlarged prostate can cause the frequent urge to urinate because of incomplete emptying. This happens because it obstructs the outflow of urine.

If someone has an enlarged prostate, it can also block their urethra. This is the tube that carries urine and semen through the penis.

Other symptoms of an enlarged prostate can include:

  • difficulty starting urinating
  • a weak stream of urine
  • dribbling at the end of urinating
  • pain after ejaculating or while urinating

If a person frequently needs to pee but little comes out, it could be a sign of cancer. Cancers that can affect peeing include bladder cancer, prostate cancer, and ovarian cancer.

The symptoms for all these cancers can be similar to other urinary tract conditions, so it is important to speak to a medical professional if urination issues arise.

According to the HHS, a doctor can do various tests to determine whether a person has a UTI. These tests include:

  • a dipstick test, which looks for substances in a person’s urine that might suggest a UTI
  • a urinalysis, which looks for cells, bacteria, and other substances in the urine
  • a urine culture, which can determine what type of bacteria are causing the UTI

A doctor will also take a person’s full medical history and perform a physical examination.

If the doctor rules out a UTI or finds signs of cancer during a physical examination, they may suggest further medical procedures to determine what is causing the person’s symptoms. This may include a referral to a urologist for a cystoscopy and bladder function tests.

According to the NIDDK, doctors prescribe antibiotics to treat UTIs. These are very effective at getting rid of the infection causing the person to need to pee even when little comes out.

Learn more about how to treat UTIs without antibiotics here.

According to a study paper in the journal Research and Reports in Urology, the first line of treatment for an overactive bladder is making lifestyle changes and learning control techniques. These can include:

  • not drinking too much water
  • avoiding caffeinated drinks that can cause a person to pee more frequently
  • stopping smoking
  • taking steps to reduce chronic health conditions that can increase urine production
  • doing pelvic floor exercises

Similar lifestyle changes and control techniques can also help treat the symptoms of an enlarged prostate. A doctor may also prescribe medication to treat an enlarged prostate, and in rarer cases, they may suggest surgery.

If a person needs to urinate more often due to cancer, then according to the National Cancer Institute, the treatments include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery.

Many conditions can make a person feel as though they need to urinate, even with an empty bladder.

For most people, medications, lifestyle changes, and coping strategies can either solve the underlying problem or help minimize the effect the symptoms have on their daily life.

Because problems peeing can be a sign of more serious health conditions, it is important to speak with a doctor to work out the cause of the issue.