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Needing to pee all the time can be pretty disruptive and uncomfortable. Traveling becomes tricky when you frequently need to stop and use the bathroom, and sitting through meetings at work is hard when you desperately need to excuse yourself. But frequent urination goes farther than stress and discomfort—it can also signal that something’s going on with your health that needs attention.
Frequent urination can happen for a lot of different reasons, some of them far less concerning than others. The cause of all those trips to the bathroom could be as simple as drinking too much coffee each morning (or, in more rare and serious cases, a bladder tumor). To fill you in on some of the most common reasons why you might feel like you always need to pee, we reached out to some urologists for their thoughts.
You’re taking in a lot of fluids
This may seem obvious, but sometimes the cause of frequent urination is that you’re simply taking in too many liquids. “Excessive or pathologic fluid intake can certainly contribute to frequent urination,” says Damon E. Davis, M.D.
Damon E. Davis, M.D. is a board-certifiied urologist with The Urology Specialists of Maryland at Mercy Medical Center.
Rena D. Malik, M.D., says that if you’re a healthy person who’s urinating too frequently, try drinking whatever you want with breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and then limiting yourself to one 16-ounce bottle of fluid during the remainder of the day to stay hydrated. (This doesn’t apply to individuals who have to drink more fluids due to medical reasons.)
Rena D. Malik, M.D. is a urologist and director of female pelvic medicine & reconstructive surgery at University of Maryland School of Medicine
You’ve had some caffeine
Caffeine is a bladder irritant and a diuretic, so it’s not surprising if you find yourself having to pee more than usual following your morning coffee. Caffeine can also contribute to urinary urgency, where you suddenly really need to use the bathroom.
“If you’re having urinary symptoms like urgency and frequency, try to cut down on your caffeine intake,” Malik says, adding that decaf or half-caffeine may be better options for you. You may also find it helpful to cut down on the amount of caffeine you drink prior to traveling or other situations where you don’t have easy access to a bathroom.
You’ve been drinking alcohol
You’re not imagining things if you feel like you need to go to the bathroom way more often after you’ve had a few alcoholic beverages. Like caffeine, alcohol has a diuretic effect on the body, which means your body will flush more water than usual through urination. This diuretic effect is also part of the reason why you feel so dehydrated after drinking alcohol. The best way to deal with this problem is pretty direct: drink less alcohol.
You’re taking medication that’s a diuretic
A wide variety of medications are diuretics and will leave you needing to urinate more frequently than usual. “With excessive fluid intake or diuretic medication, the bladder becomes overwhelmed with the amount of urine being produced by the kidneys,” says Fara Bellows, a urologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
Your bladder is inflamed
Some medical conditions like urinary tract infections and interstitial cystitis can leave you with an inflamed bladder, which may contribute to frequent urination.
“In settings of inflammation, there are inflammatory cells that irritate the bladder wall and cause spasms,” Bellows says.
You have an obstruction in your urinary tract
“Anatomic issues such as tumors or stones take up space in the bladder, making it necessary to urinate more frequently," Bellows says. Stones form when minerals from urine build up in your bladder which cause pain, burning, and other symptoms when you pee. Tumors, on the other hand, can be caused by a number of factors, like smoking, exposure to harmful chemicals and radiation, and chronic irritation of the lining of the bladder.
In that same vein, other physical deformities can prevent you from urinating on a regular schedule. “Obstruction in the urinary tract, either from an enlarged prostate or from scar tissue, can also result in increased frequency,” explains Davis.
You have an overactive bladder
In some cases, frequent urination is caused by an overactive bladder, which isn’t a condition itself, but a collection of urinary symptoms including urinary urgency (meaning you suddenly need to urinate), frequent urination, and even incontinence, which is when you leak urine.
You may be drinking too close to bedtime
If you find yourself waking up multiple times each night to use the bathroom, you may have a condition known as nocturia. While fairly common, nocturia can be disruptive to your sleep and leave you feeling groggy the next day. Sometimes it’s caused by medical issues like bladder inflammation or bladder obstruction, but the cause can also be as simple as drinking too much right before bed. To help remedy the latter, Malik suggests halting fluid intake two hours before bedtime.
Your pelvic floor muscles are really tight
Tight pelvic floor muscles can irritate your bladder, leading to urinary frequency. “This is something you may not notice but can be seen on a pelvic examination,” Malik says.
So, when is it time to see a doctor for frequent urination?
By now you know a lot of the different situations that contribute to frequent urination, but it’s also important to know when to see a doctor. The physicians we spoke with mentioned a few clear signs that indicate it’s time to get a doctor involved.
According to Davis, painful urination or any amount of blood in the urine should prompt a visit to the doctor. He added that you should also see a doctor if you’re urinating more than once every two hours or feel like you’re urinating more than makes sense for the amount of fluid you’re taking in.
Bellows added that recurrent urinary tract infections, severe abdominal pain, frequent urination accompanied by burning sensations, and fevers are all signal that it’s time to see a physician. Additionally, if your frequent bathroom trips are interfering with your quality of life, this is another strong sign it’s time to check in with your doctor.