The other night, I got up to pee six or seven times on a five-hour flight, stumbling over the person in the aisle seat. The next day, I excused myself three times during lunch with a colleague. Sound familiar? This
constant need to pee is both uncomfortable and embarrassing. It also can point toward a surprising number of medical issues.
Most people pee six or seven times a day, but anywhere between four and ten is OK if it's not causing any problems,
Sangeeta Mahajan, MD, a urogynecologist at the University Hospital Case Medical Center, tells Bustle. Peeing more than ten times a day — or peeing eight to ten times and experiencing distress over it — is cause for concern.
I'm still not quite sure what my own constant peeing stemmed from, but it mostly went away on its own, especially after sleeping better, reducing stress, and limiting my liquid intake. The cause of frequent urination is difficult to identify without having a thorough picture of your habits and health, so you should see a doctor if you're dealing with it, Dr. Mahajan says. Sometimes, treating it is as simple as making some changes to your drinking habits, but other times, it indicates a health problem. In either case, taking care of it can save you a lot of annoyance, embarrassment, and discomfort.
Here are some of the most common causes of frequent urination, what each mean, and what you can do about it, according to experts.
We're always told
to stay hydrated, but we're rarely told when to stop. It's actually not good to consume more than eight to ten fluid ounces (a small cup) per hour, Dr. Mahajan says. Drinking more than this is the number one source of frequent urination, so the problem will often go away if you just drink less.
It's not just drinking — eating foods with lots of fluid content or lots of sodium can also make you pee more. "If patients are drinking large amounts of fluids or eating foods with high water content, they should expect to urinate more frequently," Dana Rice, MD, board-certified urologist and creator of the
UTI Tracker app, tells Bustle. "Hydration status, meaning what you take in versus what you put out, urine sweat, etc., can influence urine volume. This is very intertwined with types of food, sodium intake, and medical conditions as well."
33 million Americans suffer from an overactive bladder, which occurs when nerves in your bladder make it contract uncontrollably, Dr. Mahajan says. This is sometimes thought of as part of aging, but a recent study by Allergan, Inc. and the National Association For Continence found that a quarter of overactive bladder patients were diagnosed before they turned 35. Overactive bladder can be connected to neurological conditions like Multiple Sclerosis, Dr. Rice says.
If you have
an overactive bladder, you'll likely feel a constant or sudden urge to pee even when there's not much in there. There are prescription medications you can take for this, Dr. Mahajan says, and in rare cases when that doesn't work, someone might undergo an invasive procedure like Bladder Botox injections or a bladder stimulator.
"Frequent urination with an abnormally large amount of urine is often an early symptom of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, as the body tries to rid itself of unused glucose through urine," Dr. Mahajan says. If your constant
urination is a result of diabetes, you'll likely be drinking a lot and seeing a lot of pee come out each time. Your doctor can test your for diabetes using a blood or urine test.
Alcoholic and caffeinated drinks are diuretics — substances that make you pee. Certain medications also work this way. "People who have 'water retention' may take medications like Lasix of HCTZ that can increase their urine output," Dr. Rice says. "These medications are often used to help with blood pressure control, cardiac and/or lymph edema issues." Try limiting your intake of diuretic drinks or asking your doctor about any medications that might be contributing to the problem.
During pregnancy, "the growing uterus places pressure on the bladder,
causing frequent urination," Dr. Mahajan says. If it's possible you're pregnant and you're feeling the urge to pee even when very little comes out, take a pregnancy test to rule that out. And if you currently are pregnant, know that this symptom is completely common, and nothing to worry about.
an ovarian cyst — a growth on the ovaries — can push on your bladder, making it feel like you have to pee even when your bladder isn't full or making it hard to empty your bladder. Ovarian cysts can be detected through an ultrasound and may also cause pelvic pain or irregular periods. Also speak with your doctor if you are experiencing bloating, fever, or vomiting, Mayo Clinic says, as these can be signs of an ovarian cyst as well.
The cause of this condition is not known, but [it] is characterized by pain in the bladder and pelvic region," Dr. Mahajan says. Interstitial cystitis may affect the nerves that send signals from your bladder to your brain, leading you to pee a lot with very little coming out. Symptoms can also include pelvic pain, and pain in your bladder before you empty it. It can be treated with physical therapy, medication, and nerve stimulation.
Stroke Or Other Neurological Disease
In rare cases, a constant need to pee could stem from nerve damage resulting from a stroke or neurological disease, Dr. Mahajan says. "Damage to nerves that supply the bladder can lead to
problems with bladder function," she says. This will likely have other symptoms, so a doctor should be able to give you the necessary tests if they suspect it.
Kidney or Bladder Stones
"Often, stones that are near the bladder can present with symptoms similar to a UTI or urinary frequency," Dr. Rice says. "Most people believe stones have to cause excruciating pain, but this is not always true."
Stones come from crystallized minerals in urine, Mayo Clinic says, and can also cause abdominal pain and blood in the urine. They sometimes pass on their own if you drink lots of fluids but often have to be broken up in a procedure called a cystolitholapaxy.
Urinary Tract Infections
urinary tract infection (UTI) symptoms are urinary frequency and urgency," Dr. Rice says. "Often, patients will void smaller amounts more frequently." UTIs are usually diagnosed via a dipstick or urine culture test and treated with antibiotics. If you have the sudden urge to pee frequently, and experience pain during urination, ask your doctor if it could be a UTI.
So, to recap: If you find that you have to pee more than usual, try limiting your fluid and diuretic intake, and see a doctor to investigate any underlying problems. You should not have to suffer through a flight spent climbing over the person in the aisle seat every hour.
This post was originally published on December 3, 2017 It was updated on June 6, 2019.