Peeing is a natural bodily process that we don’t have to think about. But when urination becomes too frequent or practically nonexistent in the span of a day, it could be a red flag when it comes to our health.
Is it possible to pee too much?
It’s normal to urinate roughly four to eight times in a 24-hour period, according to WebMD, but it’s different for everyone depending on a few factors. Drinking too much liquid in a day, for instance, will obviously result in more trips to the bathroom.
Plus, “some people simply have a lower capacity bladder, or a bladder that more readily signals its fullness to the brain,” Dr. Michael Leveridge, an MD FRCSC urologist in Kingston, Ont., told HuffPost Canada in an email interview. “This is not necessarily a medical ‘condition’ or an indicator to future risk or harm.”
As long as the frequency of urination doesn’t interfere with daily life, then it can be considered normal.
Why you might have to pee frequently
Too much caffeine: Coffee lovers beware! Your caffeine intake could be why you’re peeing so often. Caffeine is considered a diuretic, which means it increases the production of urine. However, if you consume caffeine on a daily basis, the effect on your bladder won’t be as strong.
Drinking alcohol: Just like caffeine, booze is a diuretic, too. “It acts on the kidneys to make you pee out much more than you take in — which is why you need to go to the toilet so often when you drink,” explained U.K. emeritus professor Oliver James, of Newcastle University’s Medical Sciences faculty, to Drinkaware.
You have a small bladder: Although a healthy bladder can hold one and a half to two cups of urine, it is possible to have a smaller bladder than the average adult, which could be the cause of your frequent toilet visits. “There is a range of bladder sizes and ‘fullnesses’ at which the bladder alerts the brain that it is full,” Leveridge confirmed. “Just like people have different shoe sizes, their bladders may have different capacities as well.”
You’re stressed: You might have more of an urge to pee when experiencing feelings of nervousness or anxiety, Live Science reports. While doctors don’t fully know the reason behind this, it’s thought that these intense feelings spark the body’s adrenaline, which then gives you the urge to relieve yourself.
It’s your age: People in their 50s and up might experience more frequent urination. For women in particular, “menopause can affect the strength of the pelvic floor muscles and the support of the tissues around the urethra,” Leveridge said. Pregnancy and child-bearing can also weaken these muscles.
As for men, “the slow growth of the prostate increases the resistance to the bladder when peeing, and many men will see a more sluggish stream,” the urologist explained. And both men and women may experience nocturia — excessive nighttime urination — as they age.
You’re cold: When blood moves away from your extremities to your core when you’re cold, this increases your blood pressure. To regulate this, your kidneys push liquid out of the body, giving you the urge to pee more often. We also lose more body heat when our bladders are full, which is why it’s common to feel the urge to urinate when we’re cold.
You’re pregnant: Frequent urination could be a symptom of pregnancy. The hormone hCG is produced in the body when a woman is expecting, which increases their urge to pee. Then, as the growing baby develops, its applied pressure on the bladder causes expectant moms to pee more frequently.
WATCH: What your pee colour says about your health. Story continues below video.
It’s your medication: Diuretics are used to treat a number of conditions, including heart failure and high blood pressure. Since these medications help flush out certain fluids in the body, they can cause people to pee more often.
It’s habit: Yes, you could just be peeing out of routine. “Usually it would start in someone who has some urgency of voiding (which we define as ‘a sudden and compelling urge to void that is difficult to defer’) or a smaller bladder,” Leveridge said. “In these cases, there is often some degree or worry about leaking/not making it to the bathroom.” As a result, heading to the toilet “at the slightest sensation from the bladder” can become a habit. However, this can be broken by adjusting fluid intake, Leveridge said.
Frequent urination could be a symptom of something bigger
While certain factors determine how often is normal for you to pee, frequent urination can also be a sign of a larger health problem.
Urinary tract infection (UTI): Discomfort while peeing can be a sign of a UTI, but so can frequent urination. When harmful bacteria gets into the urinary tract, it can irritate the bladder and cause you to pee more. And despite the fact that UTIs are commonly associated with women, men can get them, too.
Diabetes: Frequent peeing is an early symptom of type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Since excess sugar builds up in your blood when you have this condition, your kidneys can’t always keep up with filtering it out. As a result, the excess sugar is expelled through urine.
Interstitial cystitis (IC): Frequent or urgent urination is a symptom of IC, which is a chronic bladder syndrome. People with this condition may urinate up to 60 times per day and may experience pelvic or bladder pain, Medical News Today reports.
Overactive bladder syndrome: If you constantly have the urge to urinate and it’s difficult to control, you could have an overactive bladder. This could be caused by a few things, including a neurological disorder or a bladder abnormality, such as bladder stones, Mayo Clinic reports. You should see a doctor when symptoms become disruptive to your daily life.
How to stop peeing so often
Once you know the cause of your frequent urination, you can then take steps to prevent it, whether that means managing your fluid intake or treating the underlying disorder, such as a UTI, Leveridge said.
Bladders can also be “retrained” by delaying urination for a few moments after feeling the urge to go.
“The idea is simply to wait some number of seconds before heading to the bathroom, and increasing that delay slowly over time to try and ‘reset’ the threshold at which the need is compelling, and to reassure that leakage and other negative consequences may not happen,” the urologist explained.
“Some have [also] used Kegel pelvic floor exercises to strengthen the bladder outlet,” he added.
Not peeing as much as normal is a red flag, too
Urinating less often is a rarer issue than peeing too frequently, according to Leveridge.
“Even if the bladder is poorly functioning, outside the acute setting, the kidneys will keep making urine and it will need to exit the body through the bladder,” he explained.
But while peeing less than normal can happen, it will “develop very gradually and most would be aware of a medical issue at the same time, and not because they notice they are peeing too infrequently,” said Leveridge.
Some possible causes of infrequent urination is dehydration and blockage of the urinary tract, as well as nocturnal polyuria, which is when most of the urine is produced overnight, causing an individual to pee less in the day.
When to see a doctor
If your urination habits don’t disrupt your daily life, then you don’t need to see a doctor. However, you should seek medical advice if an irregularity occurs suddenly and other symptoms present themselves as well.
“If the symptoms appear over a short period of time (weeks or a few months), or crescendo rapidly from normal to severe, it merits attention and a trip to the doctor,” Leveridge advised. “Also, if accompanied by pain (in the lower abdomen, perineum or with passing urine), blood in the urine, or other neurological signs [ie. muscle weakness, unexplained pain, etc], then an MD visit is certainly important.”
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