Frequent urination is a common early symptom of diabetes. This is because high blood glucose levels result in excess blood glucose entering the urine. Not only does this pull extra water into the urine, but it also increases a person’s thirst. As such, both factors contribute toward more frequent urination.

Diabetes describes a group of conditions that affect how the body processes blood glucose levels. This refers to a measure of sugar in the bloodstream that the body uses to supply its cells with energy. When a person’s body cannot control their blood glucose, they may experience high or low blood glucose, which can present with many different symptoms.

The two main types of diabetes include type 1 and type 2. In addition to frequent urination, other possible early symptoms of the condition may include extreme thirst, fatigue, and vision changes.

In this article, we will explore how frequent urination could indicate diabetes and the possible symptoms of the condition.

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The term diabetes derives from the ancient Greek word meaning “siphon” or “to pass through.” This refers to excessive urine output being a common symptom of diabetes mellitus. This is why diabetes insipidus shares a similar name, as it also causes excessive urination.

Diabetes mellitus typically occurs due to issues with insulin. This hormone is responsible for regulating blood glucose levels. In some cases, type 1 diabetes may develop when the immune system mistakenly attacks the pancreas, affecting its ability to produce insulin. With type 2 diabetes, a person may develop insulin resistance. This is where the body no longer responds correctly to the hormone, causing glucose levels in the blood to rise.

When insulin cannot help regulate blood glucose levels, a person’s blood glucose will rise. Typically, the kidneys are able to filter and reabsorb glucose in the blood.

However, because the amount of glucose in the blood is so high, it exceeds the capacity of the kidneys. As these organs cannot filter so much glucose, they excrete the excess into the urine. However, glucose is a solute, meaning it also drags water into the urine due to osmosis, resulting in more urine.

Additionally, by dragging fluid from other tissues, it will also cause a person to experience dehydration. As a result, they will also experience increased thirst, which will also contribute to more frequent urination as they drink more fluids.

This is why some people may also describe the main symptoms of diabetes as the “three polys.” They refer to:

  • polyuria, or frequent urination, to help the body remove excess glucose
  • polydipsia, or increased thirst, to compensate for the fluid loss from urination
  • polyphagia, or increased appetite, to compensate for the loss of glucose and fluids from urination

In addition to more frequent trips to the bathroom, diabetes can also affect urine in other ways. This can include:

  • Sweet-smelling urine: As the body tries to remove excess glucose via the urine, it may have a sweet scent.
  • Foamy urine: This typically occurs when there is protein in the urine. This may be due to high blood glucose levels from diabetes damaging the kidneys and affecting their ability to filter blood.
  • A burning sensation: Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are a common cause of a burning sensation when urinating and commonly affect people with diabetes.
  • Urine retention: High blood glucose can cause nerve damage, which may lead to some people having difficulty when urinating.

In addition to the above, other possible symptoms of diabetes mellitus may include:

If a person presents with symptoms that could indicate diabetes, a doctor can perform tests to diagnose the condition. Typically, these tests involve measuring the level of glucose in the blood and may include:

Learn more about tests for diabetes.

Aside from diabetes, frequent urination may also be a symptom or side effect of other conditions or circumstances, such as:

  • Diabetes insipidus: This condition affects how the kidneys maintain fluid balance in the body, causing excessive urine production.
  • Overactive bladder (OAB): This term refers to a common condition that describes a group of urinary symptoms. Typically, it involves a loss of urinary control and the feeling of needing to urinate more often.
  • Prostate problems: If a person’s prostate swells due to a prostate issue, it can place pressure on the bladder and urethra, which can affect how often a person urinates and may also cause difficulty urinating.
  • UTIs: A UTI may irritate the lining of the bladder and urethra. As such, this may cause a person to feel the need to urinate more often.
  • Pregnancy: During pregnancy, a person may urinate more frequently due to the kidneys being more active, the uterus pushing against the bladder, and in some cases, weak pelvic floor muscles.
  • Bladder cancer: An individual may urinate more due to bladder irritation from the tumor or the bladder not being able to hold as much urine because of the mass.
  • Medication: Certain medications, such as diuretics, may cause someone to urinate more frequently.

Explore the possible reasons for frequent urination.

Below are answers to common questions about diabetes and urination:

What diabetes type makes a person urinate frequently and why?

Frequent urination could be a symptom of any type of diabetes. It occurs due to a complication of hyperglycemia, or high blood glucose. When blood glucose levels are too high, the body tries to remove this excess through urine. However, the concentration of glucose in the urine pulls more water into the urine, causing a higher volume. This also increases thirst, which further increases the volume of urine.

What does diabetic urine look like?

When a person frequently urinates due to diabetes, their urine may have a cloudy appearance and sweet smell due to the presence of glucose. It may also have a foamy appearance if there is protein in the urine.

What are the early symptoms of diabetes?

Diabetes can cause various symptoms, and early symptoms may present differently in different individuals. However, some of the most common early symptoms may include frequent urination, increased thirst, fatigue, weight loss, and vision changes.

Frequent urination, or polyuria, could be a potential early symptom of diabetes mellitus. It occurs when the body tries to remove excess glucose in the blood by excreting it in urine. However, the concentration of glucose in the urine pulls water from tissues. Not only does this increase the volume of urine, but it also causes dehydration and increased thirst. This causes a person to drink more and produce even more urine.