Frequent urination

Originally Published: February 23, 1996 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: April 20, 2012
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Dear Alice,

I've been having a problem with frequent urination. I mean going every fifteen to twenty minutes some days. I've been treated for urinary tract infections for about two months, but urine cultures show no infection, just traces of blood. I've also had an IVP Kidney X-ray which showed normal kidney function. I have a small fibroid outside my uterus which is pressing on my bladder ever so slightly. Could this be the cause of my frequent urination? I drink plenty of water, stay away from caffeine, chocolate, etc., drink cranberry juice, etc., with no success. I also get up every couple hours during the night. And, I do have a lot of urine, not just a trickle. I have no other problems with my menstrual cycle, etc. On a good day, I can go an hour or hour-and-a-half. Can you give me some advice or where to turn to next? Do I see a urologist or gynecologist? Help, I'm always looking for a bathroom.

Signed,
Urge to go!

Dear Urge to go!,

Oh, the frequency with which you’ll go… There are many possible reasons for overly active trips to the toilet. As you noted, pressure on the bladder, infections, and use of caffeine can all lead to increased urination. It’s also possible that something as simple as the amount of liquid a person consumes can explain the situation.

Is there burning or pain as the urine comes out? How urgently do you need to find a bathroom when the need to urinate arises? How much fluid and what kinds of beverages are you drinking each day? Are you unusually thirsty when you have to urinate? Are you sick in other ways — for example, fever or unusual weight loss? Are you experiencing any other chronic illnesses or do you use any medications regularly? Most primary health care providers you consult should as these types of questions along with inquiring about whether or not your frequent urination occurs primarily during the daytime or if it continues throughout the night. Another important factor is whether or not the urination is in small, normal, or excessive amounts.

All of this information should help a health care provider determine whether or not the source of the frequent urination is a bladder infection, kidney disease, hormonal disturbances, or, a factor of the amount of fluids that are being consumed. There is also the possibility of diabetes or a condition known as Overactive Bladder.

Often, the answer is clear after you talk with your provider for a few minutes. Tests for urine infection, diabetes, and ability to concentrate the urine may be helpful and are easily administered. Rarely is it necessary to look in more detail at the finer points of kidney and hormone function.

Remember, you have a great amount of control over how much fluid (i.e., water, juice, coffee, alcohol, etc.) you consume. These days it’s quite common to see people wandering about with a beverage in hand; a habit that is intended to be healthy may have unintended consequences, most notably, what goes in must come out.

While a specialist may be needed, many cases of frequent urination can be solved without. Working with your primary care provider you should be able to get to the bottom of your frequent flyer status. If you are a student at Columbia, you can make an appointment online or calling x4-2284.

Here’s to P = problem solved,

Alice