Frequent Urination in Women: Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Written by Christine Cristiano | Published on December 13, 2013
Medically Reviewed by George T. Krucik, MD, MBA on December 13, 2013

What Is Frequent Urination?

Frequent urination is the need to urinate more than you normally would. The urge can strike suddenly and can cause you to lose control of your bladder. It can feel uncomfortable, like your bladder is extremely full. This is also referred to as having an overactive bladder. According to a 2009 study, urinating every two hours or more is considered to be frequent urination.

The key to treating frequent urination is addressing the underlying cause. Read on to learn more about frequent urination and how it’s treated.

What Causes Frequent Urination?

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is a common cause of frequent urination. This occurs when bacteria enters into the bladder through the urethra. According the University of Maryland Medical Center, 50 percent of women will experience at least one UTI in their lives. Between 30 and 40 percent of infections will recur within six months of the first one.

Other causes of UTIs include:

  • injuries
  • diabetes
  • cancer and certain cancer treatments such as chemotherapy
  • conditions affecting muscles, nerves, and tissues
  • dehydration
  • use of antibiotics that eliminate good bacteria

Excessive caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol irritate the bladder walls and can worsen symptoms.

Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infection

UTIs can develop anywhere in the urinary system, but they most often occur in the bladder and urethra. They’re more common in women than men because females have a shorter urethra, allowing bacteria to travel more easily to the bladder.

The need to urinate frequently, pain or burning when urinating, strong-smelling urine, and lower abdominal pain are symptoms of UTI.

As the infection progresses, you may experience:

  • fever
  • chills
  • loss of bladder control
  • nausea

Symptoms of Overactive Bladder

According to the Cleveland Clinic, over 17 million people in the United States suffer from overactive bladder. One out of six of these patients is over 40 years old. Frequent urination is a symptom of an overactive bladder, which can be caused by:

  • weak pelvic muscles
  • nerve damage
  • being overweight
  • lack of estrogen (common after menopause)

Take It from Someone Who Knows

Catherine, a 49-year-old-woman, describes her experience with frequent urination:

“No matter how many times I went to the bathroom, I felt like I had to go again. It became very frustrating. I finally went to the doctor. They thought I had a urinary tract infection, but the test came back negative. After more tests, the doctor diagnosed me with overactive bladder.

“The doctor suggested that I lose some weight and limit the amount of coffee I drink to reduce my symptoms. I have lost a few pounds and [am] drinking less coffee. I think consuming less caffeine has helped a bit because it can make you urinate more.”

Diagnosis and Testing

Your doctor will perform tests to determine what’s causing you to urinate frequently. They'll ask you some questions such as:

  • When did this symptom begin?
  • How often do you urinate?
  • What symptoms are you experiencing?

Your doctor will most likely ask you for a urine sample and check it for bacteria and blood. If the test is negative, you’ll likely need to get an abdominal or pelvic ultrasound to check for anything abnormal in the bladder. If the ultrasound test is inconclusive, your doctor may order more invasive tests, such as a cystoscopy, to check for tumors or obstructions.

Treatment for Frequent Urination

Treatment for frequent urination depends on the cause. Your doctor will first treat the primary disease responsible for frequent urination, such as diabetes. If an infection is at fault, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics for getting rid of the infection.

Medications that control the muscle spasms in the bladder can help reduce urinary incontinence, which is loss of bladder control. Your doctor also may suggest doing pelvic exercises, such as Kegels or bladder retraining exercises, to help delay urination.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese form of healing that has been used to treat illness for centuries. According to the Journal of Chinese Medicine, acupuncture can help with frequent urination and an overactive bladder in women. Urinary incontinence and frequent urination can potentially be eased by manipulating specific acupuncture points.

Preventive Measures

You can take some steps to reduce your likelihood of developing frequent urination. Your best defense is to stop smoking and maintain a healthy weight. Limit your caffeine and alcohol intake.

Constipation can also contribute to frequent urination by putting pressure on the bladder, so increase your fiber intake to maintain regularity.

Also, have your doctor instruct you on the proper way to perform Kegel pelvic exercises. These can strengthen your pelvic floor.

If you develop symptoms of frequent urination, see your doctor to be checked for a urinary tract infection or other medical condition.

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