Updated 23 September 2020

5 reasons why you need to pee all the time

Frequent urination has a number of potential causes. How do you know if it’s a sign of incontinence or something else?

You suddenly need to pee more than usual. You may even experience some leakage when laughing or sneezing. You are wondering whether this is normal or not.

There are a number of underlying medical conditions that will cause you to urinate more frequently than usual.

What counts as frequent urination?

The number of times we normally pee depends on several factors – like age, gender and how much water we drink. Our bladders can hold up to 500ml (two cups) of fluid, and the average adult needs to pee about six times a day.

While it’s important to regularly void the bladder – as static urine can lead to infections – anything more than six times a day might indicate an underlying issue.

But, before you get too worried, consider what is normal for you and how much fluid you drink during the course of the day.

If, however, you find yourself running to the loo more than usual and you don't know why, here are a few possible causes:

1. Incontinence

It is important to note that there is a difference between frequent urination and involuntarily leaking, which is also known as incontinence. When you involuntarily leak urine when you are laughing or sneezing for example, it might indicate weak pelvic muscles, placing more pressure on the bladder.

Incontinence can be caused or aggravated by several factors, including pregnancy, age, overweight, smoking or excessive use of alcohol.

It’s important to seek help – especially if your incontinence comes on suddenly, if there is blood in your urine or if you experience pain or a loss of sensation in your back or legs.

2. A urinary tract infection (UTI)

A feeling of not being able to completely empty your bladder and constantly feeling like you need to urinate, coupled with a burning sensation might indicate a UTI. This is a common infection in any part of the urinary tract and can be caused by a number of different bacteria. Although easily treated with antibiotics, it can be extremely unpleasant and painful.

If not treated, a UTI can have serious health consequences. The infection can spread and cause damage to your kidneys or end up in the bloodstream, causing life-threatening sepsis.

So if your frequent urination is coupled with burning, stinging, dull aches and struggling to completely empty your bladder, a doctor could diagnose and treat a UTI.

3. Anxiety disorders

Ever found yourself running to the loo in times of stress and anxiety? It’s not your imagination – your anxiety can indeed lead to an overactive bladder. Research shows that there is a strong correlation between stress and anxiety and your bladder. A clinical study published in Urology investigated urinary symptoms among patients with overactive bladder syndrome who also suffered from anxiety. Those with anxiety had more frequent urination patterns than those who didn’t.

If you suspect that your anxiety is affecting your bladder, seek help for the underlying anxiety.

4. Inflammation of your prostate gland

Prostatitis, a condition where your prostate gland becomes swollen and inflamed, can lead to increased urination, especially at night. While prostatitis can affect men of all ages, it seems to be more common in men over the age of 30, and especially over 60. Frequent urination could also be coupled with pain or burning while urinating, cloudy urine, blood in the urine, and pain or discomfort in the testicular area. If you suspect prostatitis, see your doctor or urologist urgently as untreated prostatitis can lead to a variety of complications.

5. Diabetes

Along with excessive thirst and unexplained sudden fatigue, frequent urination could be an early sign of diabetes. It causes your kidneys to work overtime as a result of the excess sugar in the blood. If you feel you might be at risk for diabetes due to certain lifestyle factors and/or a family history, you need to visit your doctor for a diagnosis.

Image credit:iStock


Ask the Expert

Incontinence Expert

Dr Prenevin Govender completed his MBChB at the University of Cape Town in 2001. He obtained his Fellowship of the College of Urologists in 2009 and graduated with distinction for a Masters in Medicine from the University of Cape Town in 2010. His special interests include laparoscopic, pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence surgery. He consults full-time at Life Kingsbury Hospital in Claremont.

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