Frequent Urination

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What is frequent urination?

Frequent urination, also known as urinary frequency, is a condition in which you feel the need to pass urine more often than usual. Frequent urination may occur due to a variety of reasons, some of which are not serious or harmful. For example, frequent urination may occur after drinking a lot of fluids, especially fluids that contain caffeine or alcohol. Pregnancy can cause frequent urination due to pressure put on the bladder by an enlarging uterus.

If frequent urination is unexplained or persistent, it can be a symptom of an underlying disease, disorder or condition. These include diabetes, urinary tract infection, enlarged prostate, and side effects of certain medications, such as diuretics.

Frequent urination can occur in all age groups and populations, and it may or may not occur with additional symptoms, such as a foul urine odor and burning with urination. Nocturia is frequent urination during the night, which is common in middle-aged and older men.

In some cases, frequent urination can be due to serious or life-threatening underlying diseases, such as pyelonephritis, urosepsis or diabetes. Seek prompt medical care if you have persistent frequent urination. Timely diagnosis and treatment of the underlying cause reduces the risk of serious or life-threatening complications, such as kidney failure and shock.

If you have frequent urination with symptoms such as high fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit), abdominal or flank pain, bloody urine, or a change in consciousness or alertness, seek immediate medical care (call 911).

What other symptoms might occur with frequent urination?

Frequent urination may be accompanied by other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms can originate in the urinary tract (kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra), the reproductive system, the endocrine system, the cardiovascular system, and other organs and systems of the body.

Possible coexisting urinary tract symptoms

Urinary tract symptoms that can occur with frequent urination include:

  • Abdominal, pelvic or flank pain along your abdomen, side or back

  • Bladder spasms, pain or cramps, which are felt in the lower abdominal area

  • Cloudy urine or urine color changes, such as dark, tea-colored, colorless, or bloody or pink-tinged urine

  • Dysuria (burning pain or discomfort with urination or difficulty passing urine)

  • Foul urine odor

  • Incontinence, leaking urine, or dribbling of urine

  • Urgency, a sudden intense need to urinate

Possible coexisting symptoms related to other body systems

Symptoms related to other organs or body systems that can occur with frequent urination include:

Serious symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition

In some cases, frequent urination can occur with symptoms that might indicate a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have any of these serious symptoms:

  • Bloody urine

  • Change in level of consciousness or alertness, such as passing out or unresponsiveness

  • Change in mental status or sudden behavior change, such as confusion, disorientation, delirium, lethargy, hallucinations and delusions

  • High fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit)

  • Severe abdominal pain or flank pain (along your abdomen, side, or low back)

What causes frequent urination?

Frequent urination is often caused by infection, inflammation or other conditions of the urinary tract (kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra) or the reproductive organs.

Frequent urination can also be caused by diseases of other body systems. For example, untreated or poorly controlled diabetes can cause frequent urination due to a high concentration of glucose (sugar) in the blood, which causes increased thirst, increased drinking, and frequent urination.

Urinary tract and reproductive system causes of frequent urination

Causes of frequent urination related to the urinary tract and reproductive system include:

Other causes of frequent urination

Frequent urination can be caused by diseases and conditions that affect other organs and body systems including:

  • Anxiety

  • Certain medications such as diuretics, or water pills

  • Diabetes (chronic disease that affects your body’s ability to use sugar for energy)

  • Exposure to cold weather

  • Pelvic tumor or mass

  • Pregnancy

What are the potential complications of frequent urination?

Complications associated with frequent urination vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Complications of untreated or poorly controlled diseases, such as diabetes and kidney infection, can be serious and even life threatening. You can minimize the risk of serious complications of frequent urination by following the treatment plan you and your health care professional design specifically for you.

Underlying causes of frequent urination can lead to serious complications including:

  • Diabetic coma

  • Infertility

  • Ketoacidosis

  • Permanent kidney damage, kidney disease, and kidney failure (renal failure)

  • Shock

  • Spread of cancer (metastasis)

  • Urosepsis and septicemia (blood infection)

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Nov 20
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  1. Frequent or Urgent Urination. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003140.htm
  2. Urinary Tract Infection – Adults. PubMed Health. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001549.