Do you feel like you always have to pee? Maybe you can’t take a short road trip without pulling over several times at a gas station. Perhaps, you find yourself constantly getting up in the middle of the night to the annoyance of your spouse.
Dr. Lesley Carr, a urologist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences in Toronto, explains the deal with frequent urination, what it could mean and whether there’s a cure.
Q: First off, do women go to the bathroom more than men? Is it true we have smaller bladders?
A: The norms that we use are the same by gender but it may be slightly more common for women to go the bathroom more often.
Q: How do you know if you’re urinating too much?
A: Strictly speaking, the definition of normal is eight times in 24 hours including up to once at night. Now it does depend on how much you drink. What comes in is going to come out and then you’re going to go to the bathroom more often.
Q: What if you’re going to the bathroom four to five times a night?
A: That is abnormal.
Q: What is it that makes a person pee too much?
A: It might be your fluid intake or the over production of urine. Diabetes could also make too much urine. The more common reason would be an overactive bladder which means you’re making a normal amount of urine but the bladder is telling you, you have to go before it’s full. There’s also people who have interstitial cystitis where the bladder is very sensitive and inflamed. It can have symptoms like a bladder infection but it’s not. Bladder infections could also cause frequent urination.
Q: Who is this problem most likely to effect?
A: It’s more common with advancing age. Each decade the incidents get higher.
Q: What can a frequent urinater do?
A: Things like caffeine can be an irritant to the bladder. Simply reducing the amount of caffeine a day helps the frequency of urinating. You should be looking at how much water you’re drinking. You may even want to do a voiding (urinating) diary meaning write down and document how many times you’re going and bring it in to show your doctor.
Q: How much should you be drinking in a day?
A: The minimum is to try to aim for four glasses of water a day. Everyone these days are being told to constantly drink water. It’s probably best to keep it on your desk and sip it gradually rather then chugging a half liter, that’s easier on your bladder.
Q: What’s the treatment for overactive bladder?
A: Once they’ve ruled out things like infection, then you need to look at behavior things like fluid modification. There also are medications that are used that help try to relax the bladder by giving it longer between voids.
Q: What about strengthening your kegel muscles, could that help?
A: If it’s just frequency of urination, the kegel exercises are not as important but they could help women who leak on route to the bathroom, which is what we call urge incontinence. If they work on kegel exercises and strengthening their pelvic floor muscles, then they may be able to settle the urge or just have a good strong defense so that they don’t leak. It’s definitely in their best interest to keep those muscles as strong as possible
Q: Is there a cure for frequent urination?
A: Yes, in some cases. There are some people who get better with the use of medications for a number of months. It may also be helpful to desensitize your bladder by holding on (when you have to urinate) for an extra 10 minutes every week to get your bladder used to holding more. It’s not possible for everybody. Some people do end up staying on medications life-long.
Interview conducted, condensed and edited by Margo Varadi.