If you feel like you head to the bathroom way more often than other people, you've probably wondered if it's normal to urinate frequently, and whether you should worry. But rest assured that you're not alone. "I have patients ask me this all the time," says Jeremy Fine, M.D., an internal medicine physician in Los Angeles. Here are some of the most likely reasons you've always "gotta go":
- You have a urinary tract infection (if you're a woman). If your urinary problems came on suddenly, and peeing is accompanied by a burning or stinging sensation, a urinary tract infection (or UTI) is likely the culprit. "This is one of most common causes of frequent urination for women," says Dr. Fine. "You feel the urge to pee a lot, but the volume can be a lot or just a little dribble, and it's usually accompanied by burning, and occasionally by a mild fever, stomach ache, back ache or nausea." An untreated UTI can lead to a bladder or kidney infection, so if you suspect you have one see a doctor, who may prescribe antibiotics.
- You have an enlarged prostate (if you're a man). "Men who feel the urge to urinate frequently but only pee a little, or can't evacuate the bladder all at once then go again five minutes later, probably have a prostate infection," says Dr. Fine. If that describes your symptoms, see your doctor.
- It's something you're eating or drinking. You probably know that consuming caffeine or alcohol can increase urine output, but did you know that artificial sweeteners and acidic foods like citrus can also cause frequent urination? "Artificial sweeteners are a big cause, and high-acid foods like pineapple and citrus can cause people to urinate more often," says Dr. Fine. It's also possible that you are drinking a whole lot more water than you realize. "The fancy word for drinking more water than your body needs is polydipsia and it can cause people to pee quite a bit," he says. "There's no danger in it unless you drink so much that you have an electrolyte imbalance. That can be life-threatening, but it's very rare."
- You have diabetes. One more serious cause of frequent urination is undiagnosed diabetes. When blood sugar is too high, as it is with uncontrolled diabetes, the body tries to get rid of the excess sugar via urine. "Frequent urination is more commonly a symptom of type 1 diabetes, but can be true for type 2 as well," says Dr. Fine. If you suspect you might be diabetic (more diabetes symptoms are listed here) see your doctor immediately, as undiagnosed diabetes can be life threatening.
- Your meds are to blame. "Many prescription medications lead to more frequent urination, especially blood pressure medications," says Dr. Fine. Check the side effects information that accompanies your prescription to see if this could be the cause.
- Your muscles need some strengthening. With age we can lose strength in the pelvic area (especially true of women who've had children), which leaves us less able to hold a lot of fluid in the bladder.
- There's a more serious cause. Although Dr. Fine says your frequent urination is probably caused by one of the more benign things listed above, it could be a symptom of cancer. "If you're peeing a lot and notice blood in the urine, it may be a sign of bladder or kidney cancer," he says. Reproductive cancers can also cause increased urination, so see your doctor right away if it's accompanied by any other troubling symptoms.
The take-away: Although frequent trips to the loo are a nuisance, they're rarely a legitimate reason to worry. "For an otherwise healthy person trying to figure this out, there is probably a harmless explanation," says Dr. Fine.
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