A frequent urge to urinate can be very disruptive. But a constant urge to pee without the relief of being able to can become unbearably frustrating.

This condition affects both men and women. The good news is, it’s easily treatable. There are many different causes, symptoms, and treatments to resolve this condition.

Some of the reasons you might be suffering from a consistent but fruitless urge to pee include:

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

One of the most common causes of feeling the urge but being unable to pee are UTIs. These occur about four times more frequently in women than men.

UTIs are caused when bacteria — most commonly E. coli — spread to the genitalia from the anal region or elsewhere. This bacterial infection causes cystitis (inflammation of the bladder) and is responsible for the urge to pee.

Common causes and risks for UTIs include:

Pregnancy

Another common cause for this sensation in women is pregnancy. During the first trimester of pregnancy, hormonal changes can lead to sensations of needing to urinate. The hormones involved include:

During the third trimester, the urge to urinate can return due to increasing pressure from the baby as it grows larger inside the uterus. In addition, women tend to retain more fluid during pregnancy, which can interfere with the urge to pee.

Enlarged prostate

For men, an urge to pee can be the result of a swollen or enlarged prostate, which puts increased pressure on the bladder. That pressure can cause the urge to pee before the bladder is full, resulting in very little urine being passed.

Enlarged prostrates are usually due to age. As men get older, their prostates enlarge and can create urinary complications, which can create an uncomfortable urge to pee.

Other causes

Some other reasons that can cause an urge to pee with nothing coming out include:

You might be suffering from one of the causes listed above if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  • frequent urination with very little urine being passed each time
  • frequent urge to urinate, but being unable to pass any urine
  • a weak, low-pressure urine stream

Some symptoms, especially with UTIs, can be more severe and painful. You should see your doctor immediately if you’re experiencing any of the following:

These symptoms could be a sign that a UTI has infected your kidneys, or a sign of cancer. Again, speak with your doctor if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms.

UTI

If you’re experiencing a frequent urge to pee without being able to, your doctor will order a urinalysis to determine whether or not you have a UTI.

A urinalysis is simply a urine test that checks to see, among other things, if there’s bacteria or an infection in your urine. If you have a UTI, your doctor will prescribe a course of antibiotics to treat and cure the condition.

Pregnancy

For pregnant women who do not have UTI’s, the urge to urinate should subside about six weeks after giving birth. In the meantime, performing kegel exercises will help strengthen the pelvic floor and assist with the frequent feeling of needing to pee.

Enlarged prostate

Treatment for men with an enlarged prostate — also called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)treatment can be worked out with your doctor. A combination of medication and bladder training can help get any uncomfortable bladder activity under control.

Other treatments and prevention

Other treatments and preventative measures to consider include:

  • Wear loose-fitting clothing, especially pants and underwear.
  • Take warm baths to soothe the sensation of needing to pee.
  • Drink more fluids.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and other diuretics.
  • For women: Urinate before and after sexual activity to decrease risks of a UTI.

The urge to pee without being able to is an uncomfortable sensation experienced by both men and women. If you’re experiencing this sensation, first check to see if you have a UTI. That’s the most common cause for this feeling.

It’s especially important to catch a UTI early, because if you wait too long, a UTI can spread to the kidneys and cause a more severe infection.

Speak to your doctor about the urge to pee to determine the best course of action for you to take. Remember to drink healthy fluids, take your lifestyle into account, and follow through with your urge to pee whenever you need to — don’t hold it in.