Winter pee-itis?
December 16, 2020 8:47 PM   Subscribe

This is the first time I've had this happen to me: once winter started this year, I started having frequent and strong urges to pee when it's cold around me. Most of the time the volume is small but when I do go, it's a really high pressure.

The internet calls it cold diuresis and talks about how this is a result of the body anticipating hypothermia. The thing is, I've never had this issue before (I'm in my early thirties) in the winter. On the other hand, I have always been more sensitive to colder temperatures than almost anyone else in the room.

Why now, when pretty much nothing else has changed about my body/health? Is there anything I can do to go back to normal, aside from trying to stay as warm as possible? Should I get a blood test?
posted by kinoeye to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: This happened to me too (mid thirties)... for me it ended up being a broader pelvic floor issue, where the muscles were too tight. The cold was making them tighten more and spasm, which was causing all sorts of fuckery with peeing. I had a lot of success with pelvic floor physio after a long and frustrating period of trying to figure out what was wrong, so maybe that is something to look into!
posted by DTMFA at 9:51 PM on December 16, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'm a doctor; perhaps I can help a little(?). I specialize in older adults, so diagnosing and treating bladder problems is an everyday thing for me. I've never heard of "frequent and strong urges to pee" being triggered by cold, and my textbooks don't mention it.

I think your symptom is occurring in the bladder, and "cold diuresis" wouldn't be an incorrect term for that--"diuresis" means that the kidneys are making extra urine. We refer to frequent and strong urges to pee as "overactive bladder" (OAB) or "urinary urgency". If you were having leaks as a result, we'd call that "urge urinary incontinence".

Your symptom doesn't worry me. If it's really creating problems, a urine test to rule out infection or stones, but if this is just a minor nuisance I wouldn't bother.

On preview, I like what DTMFA says.
posted by neuron at 9:55 PM on December 16, 2020 [3 favorites]

Is it only happening outside when you are actually cold? Or whenever? UTIs can manifest without pain, just urgency; I’d probably check with your medical care provider just in case.
posted by charmedimsure at 9:56 PM on December 16, 2020

Best answer: I'm 35. For the past ten years, this has happened to me every night when I stay at my parents' house, where I grew up. They turn off all the heating to sleep in a poorly insulated 1890s manor house in northern England. I sleep with three blankets, socks, jumper and a fuzzy robe (sometimes also a scarf), and every night I wake up at least twice for a good long pee. If I drink any water at night it seems to go straight through me.

In my own home, I am warm enough, it doesn't happen. So for me it's not a big deal health-wise, since it's so obviously triggered by sustained cold. Comfort-wise it's a different story, but I guess my parents must be lizard people.
posted by guessthis at 1:32 AM on December 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

Huh. This happens to me just as guessthis describes. I always chalked it up to the idea that being uncomfortably cold made my tolerance for any other discomfort (like needing to pee) go way down.

I'm super sensitive to cold and have poor circulation in my feet so I could 100% see that my body (who is a bit of a drama queen at times if you ask me) is preparing for hypothermia.
posted by ananci at 7:38 AM on December 17, 2020

Thank you for asking the question. I just had this happen for the first time last week at the end of a long, cold walk. I suddenly had an overwhelming urge to pee without any preceding urinary signals at all--zero build up to it. I barely made it home.
posted by Elsie at 10:14 AM on December 17, 2020

Best answer: Another person chiming in to say they've experienced similar issues. I used to do wilderness backpacking year-round in a hammock which presents a lot of challenges for keeping warm in the cold overnight - and easily leaving your hammock to pee (tent campers can more easily take care of peeing inside their tent with adequate preparation). I experienced this same issue whenever the temperatures dropped.

According to hammock forums, this is absolutely a widespread issue people discuss frequently ("I used to camp fine overnight in a tent in the cold, and now that I'm in a hammock and more exposed I have to pee urgently!").
posted by mostly vowels at 10:33 AM on December 17, 2020

The way this article explains it, your blood vessels contract to keep your organs supplied with blood, which means more blood gets filtered through your kidneys.
posted by MrBadExample at 3:00 PM on December 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

If you want to read about "cold diuresis" from a urology practice:
It’s a phenomenon that all may not experience, but most will not want to talk about: the cold-weather-induced need to urinate. More people than not will experience this phenomenon throughout their lives at varying frequencies, but many will never know why. The truth is no one knows with 100% certainty why this happens, but scientists and doctors have a pretty good guess -- cold diuresis.
posted by away for regrooving at 11:24 PM on December 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

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