Why am I urinating more frequently lately?
August 1, 2008 10:01 AM   Subscribe

What's up with my frequent urination? Can't see a doctor for a few weeks.

I seem to be going to the bathroom a lot more frequently for the past few months, maybe 4-8 months. Is this just something that happens with age or something to be concerned about? I'm currently between doctors and countries and won't be able to go to one for a few weeks unless it's an emergency.

- I am 28, female.
- I used to be one of those people who can hold it forever, a 4-6 hour car trip was no problem. This was the case until early this year. I noticed last night that I went to the bathroom twice in the course of a two-hour dinner at a restaurant. I seem to be peeing every hour or two during the day now.
- I am not waking up at night to urinate (if I get up to go to the bathroom it's because I was sleeping poorly in the first place.) I do get the urge to pee just before falling soundly asleep, and after sex.
- Urine is not cloudy or dark except in the morning.
- Do feel a slight tingling/burning in my urethra occasionally, and sometimes feel a need to urinate but little comes out.
- I did have a comprehensive panel of blood and urine tests to rule out diabetes and any metabolic issues when I was having health problems a few months ago. (Turned out to be mono and/or stress.)
- Also had urine tests with my annual gyno exam a few months ago, also normal.
- Had bladder reflux as a child but it went away sometime during adolescence.
- Not sure if I am drinking more - I used to drink a lot of diet soda and tea but have been trying to cut back on the caffeine and drink water instead. I have been a bit thirstier, possibly because allergies have my sinuses all screwed up so I breathe through my mouth when I am not paying attention. Haven't really changed diet either, maybe eating more fruit since it's summer but this has been going on more or less since winter.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Recent weight gain? Recently started sitting in new chair or position that puts pressure on something? Pregnant? Stopped doing Kegels?
posted by rokusan at 10:08 AM on August 1, 2008

I'm a male, but I've had a similar problem. After seeing a urologist, and after some other important events, it became clear that it was a "nervous bladder" - it was a psychosomatic condition brought on by stress and anxiety. Could this possibly be something similar? Have you been under a lot of stress lately?
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:19 AM on August 1, 2008

I'm assuming the urine test ruled out a UTI?
posted by cgg at 10:47 AM on August 1, 2008

Are you under stress? Stress can cause frequent urination.
posted by neblina_matinal at 10:59 AM on August 1, 2008

- Do feel a slight tingling/burning in my urethra occasionally, and sometimes feel a need to urinate but little comes out.

That sounds like a UTI - perhaps a mild one? They can diagnose and take care of that at a walk-in clinic, if that's what it is.
posted by frobozz at 11:03 AM on August 1, 2008

It sounds like a UTI to me, but if you've also started drinking more water over caffeinated beverages, you might find yourself going to the bathroom more until you're more hydrated.
posted by katillathehun at 11:05 AM on August 1, 2008

I'd have another set of labs testing for diabetes. The burning sensation can be a sign of high blood sugar levels, as can the frequent urination...of course that's usually accompanied by increased thirst which is unclear for you. However, diabetes can onset quickly so even if you were tested a few months ago, it seems reasonable to have the test again.

If you are unable to go to a doc for a few weeks, you could obtain urine test strips from a pharmacy to get a general idea about the diabetes possibility although you'd still want an official lab test as soon as possible since the home urine test is not very sensitive. If you test a couple of hours after a (normal, with carbs) meal you could get a reasonably accurate result. If your symptoms increase, and/or the urine test is positive for elevated blood sugar level, I'd call it an emergency and see a doc...

BTW,--IANAD--but I have lived with 2 diabetics in my home for 30+ years, have several more in the extended family, and several friends who are diabetic.
posted by mumstheword at 12:28 PM on August 1, 2008

As others have said, that sounds exactly like my initial symptoms of a UTI.

obligatory cautionary tale: In my case, it was "honeymoon cystitis," a UTI exacerbated by frequent intercourse. Because I was away from home and because I thought it was a reaction to a new brand of condom, I didn't go to the doctor right away. By the time I did visit my doctor, it had become a more serious infection.

If it's really impossible for you to see your doctor, in the U.S., you can buy an over-the-counter dipstick test to to confirm the presence of a urinary tract infection. Try calling your doctor's office to see if they'll phone in an antibiotic prescription on the strength of an OTC test.

If they will (and some won't), you can take the test at home, then get the doctor-prescribed antibiotics and an OTC analgesic, which will alleviate your discomfort while the antibiotic takes effect. (YMMV, but when I tried the AZO pills, I was astonished at how quickly and completely it relieved my discomfort.)

When performing the test, either at home or in a doctor's office, it's crucial to get a "clean catch" mid-stream urine sample. You'll find instructions here.

Important! Don't take the OTC analgesic until after you confirm the presence or absence of a UTI; my doc warned me that taking AZO before the test would obscure the results of testing.
posted by Elsa at 12:33 PM on August 1, 2008

p.s. - three ifs: if it is a UTI and if you do take the AZO pills, and if your experience mirrors mine, you will be thrice astonished: first, at how ridiculously expensive two little pills are; second, at how suddenly and completely the first pill works, which made the price seem like a bargain; thirdly, at the terrifyingly bright orange urine the pills cause. For a split second, I thought I was peeing blood... or, uh, neon.
posted by Elsa at 12:41 PM on August 1, 2008

Another one saying "sounds like a UTI". Do you always pee within 5 minutes after sex? That's one of the biggest causes of it. And the AZO pills that a previous poster mentioned are good...just make sure you're wearing a liner or something b/c that stuff will make every drop of your urine very "stainable", LOL.
posted by texas_blissful at 12:43 PM on August 1, 2008

Uh, yes, if you *do* have a UTI and you *are* rocking the AZO, buy some pantiliners. That stuff stains.

(How's your blood pressure? I had some goofy urinary symptoms that have been alleviated-- nay, banished from the face of the earth-- by my BP meds.)
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 12:44 PM on August 1, 2008

Ha! Elsa posted again right before me....that's what I was referring to....how it makes your pee a bright orange!
posted by texas_blissful at 12:44 PM on August 1, 2008

One more thought.....a long time ago once after I had a UTI, I continued to pee and pee and pee. I thought I had an overactive bladder or something, saw a urologist repeatedly, etc. Now I cannot remember the exact name of the condition, but basically my body and mind became so used to peeing so often that I always felt like I had to go. So it took practice trying to hold it longer and longer until that urge subsided. Of course never try something like that until you rule out anything medical.
posted by texas_blissful at 12:47 PM on August 1, 2008

UTI - basically some bad bacteria all up in your stuff. If you can't get to doc's, then drink lots of water to flush out the system, keeping it from moving "uphill". Some cranberry juice helps make the bacteria loosen up. But if you start getting a fever, nausea, vomiting, frequent blood... then go to the doc, get some antibiotics - could mean the bacteria is traveling from your urethra into the bladder or up into your kidneys. That's bad stuff.
posted by spoons at 12:49 PM on August 1, 2008

If the urine tests come out with no sign of UTI, but this feeling still continues, see a urologist. Same thing was happening to me, and I kept getting tested for UTI and all sorts of STI's/etc.

Once I went to an actual urologist, I was diagnosed with Interstitial Cystitis, also reffered to as "IC". Its definitely worth checking out if you have all the symptoms of a UTI, but no trace of it in your urine.
posted by snotloc at 1:01 PM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Also, acidic foods and drinks can irritate the lining of your bladder, which could worsen your issue. I'd stay away from cranberry juice especially. Yes cranberry promotes a healthy bladder, but the actual juice is very acidic.
posted by snotloc at 1:03 PM on August 1, 2008

need more details specifically to some of the questions raised. also what is your diet like? do you have any gastrointestinal issues?
posted by learninguntilidie at 1:12 PM on August 1, 2008

This sounds like a UTI. The time frame is a bit long, but it's certainly possible to have a mild infection linger for eons. I had a UTI recently that wasn't diagnosed until I started feeling an excruciating amount of pain, even though I'd been peeing every five minutes for about the past six months.

This isn't an emergency unless you start developing pain (especially back pain - that's a sign that it's gone to the kidneys). The best thing you can do is to avoid drinks with caffeine or added sugar (which pretty just much leaves, well, water) and consume cranberry in some form. I've found cranberry supplements (available OTC) are more helpful than juice - especially since if you're drinking the juice, you need to be sure to get 100% juice that's unsweetened, and I'm not a big fan of how sour it is.

As for peeing after sex - you should ALWAYS pee after intercourse. It helps flush bacteria from the urethra which helps prevent future infections. I get UTIs with disturbing regularity and my doctor also recommended that I pee both before AND after sex if at all possible. (Before doesn't always happen, unless y'know, I have to go anyway.)

Another thing to avoid if you're symptomatic for a UTI is taking a bath. Warm water is not your friend in this situation. Stick to the showers.

If you develop any high fevers, vomitting, or back pain go to an ER stat. A UTI isn't a big deal, but a kidney infection is a really, really big deal.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 1:14 PM on August 1, 2008

In the US you can get pee strips that test for UTIs. I doubt they're 100% accurate, but if you can get them where you are, they'll help narrow it down. Plain-vanilla cystitis is another option.

For either possibility, avoid sugar and drink drink drink filtered water. If you can get corn silk where you are, make a tea of it. It soothes the urinary system (really!). It might also make you pleasantly relaxed/slightly high.

When I had endometriosis, my bladder was way touchy, probably because of inflammation from wandering endo tissue. So if your periods are intensely painful, you might consider that as well.
posted by PatoPata at 1:39 PM on August 1, 2008

Oh, sorry, I missed the part about being between doctors and between countries at the moment. As someone posted upthread, if it's a UTI, it can be easily (and, most likely, inexpensively) treated at a walk-in clinic (or your local equival. My university clinic visit, test, and prescription cost all of US$20.

If you're not currently in the U.S., it's hard to know whether OTC dipsticks are available, but given the info in the first page I linked to, you should be able to Google the availability of tests. Though the tests have a pretty high error rate, it's mostly false negatives, not false positives. That is, it may mistakenly indicate that you do not have a UTI; it's unlikely to mistakenly indicate that you do have one.

If you do a dipstick test and it comes back negative, you should describe your symptoms to a doctor. It may not be a UTI, but it's something.

You ask "Is this just something that happens with age or something to be concerned about?" Your symptoms are not typical age-related changes, certainly not at 28. It's most likely something small and treatable, though.

On preview: judging by the testimonials above, home treatment (cranberry, flushing the system with water, vitamin C) has worked well for some people. For me, it was disastrous. Between the time I figured out it was a UTI and making a doctor's appointment, I tried the home cures. I ended up with a (luckily not too serious) kidney infection. You do not want a kidney infection. As grapefruitmoon says, a kidney infection is a big deal.

(I do find all the cranberry-water-VitaminC stuff works great as preventative medicine. Different people, different body chemistry & architecture, I guess.)
posted by Elsa at 1:42 PM on August 1, 2008

Okay, I'm going to dissent here and say that this doesn't sound like a UTI to me. The OP says that she only occasionally experiences slight pain, and that it's been happening for many months (without getting worse).

I'm going to go with Sticherbeast and suggest that this is a result of stress or anxiety, and of having trained your body to send the "I have to pee!!!" message to your brain way too early. I have the same problem; when I'm stressed or anxious, I have to use the bathroom a lot, and then I start worrying about how frequently I have to use the bathroom, and that makes it even worse. I also have the pain you describe, maybe once or twice a month; my current theory is that it's some kind of spasm or other muscle issue.

For me, what set the problem off was one particular day when I was really stressed out, went out to a restaurant and drank a lot of water, and then had to stop multiple times on the (half-hour) trip home to use the bathroom (and I was with a group of people, so it was somewhat embarrassing). That freaked me out, and for a few months afterward, whenever I would go out of the apartment I'd constantly feel like I had to use the bathroom (because when you're actively thinking about the state of your bladder, you can pretty much always feel like you have to use the bathroom). After a few months I calmed down a little and the problem has pretty much been resolving itself. I do find that caffeine (particularly coffee) can irritate my bladder and make the problem recur, though.

Also, you mention that you had bladder reflux as a child -- if this involved any traumatic testing (e.g. catheterization) or a lot of pain in the genital area, that could explain why stress is manifesting itself in this particular way. (Or both problems could be related to the same tricky set of muscles?)

If you honestly haven't been stressed or anxious (and yes, stressing about how often you're peeing counts as stress), you might want to look into Interstitial Cystitis -- I'm actually loath to give you that link, because I know how this problem works and if you start to think of it as a chronic disease (when it's very likely psychological) then you can start giving yourself extra symptoms.
posted by pluckemin at 3:37 PM on August 1, 2008

If it helps at all, I also recently started weaning myself off my 4 can a day coke zero habit and onto water instead, and the net result, even though I was consuming no more actual liquids was a need to pee all the damned time. 3 months in and it's started to subside, and I'm back to being able to hold it for hours again. I wouldn't want to try Toronto to Maui with a stopover in Chicago again, but it's certainly vastly improved. Plus, I mostly don't need to get up in the night to pee anymore either.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:44 PM on August 1, 2008

Caffeine in particular can make the bladder rather sensative. My doctor didn't think it was a UTI and suggested that I drink/take cranberry to alkalize my urine and soothe things down, as well as avoiding sugars just in case there was an infection (tests were negative but it can't hurt). My symptoms (having to "go" every hour or so, having to "go" but very little coming out) died down in a few days. I kept up the no caffeine/sugar thing for two weeks and it's never come back.
posted by ninazer0 at 8:42 PM on August 1, 2008

Maybe this comment from a different thread is relevant. Only replace the 'being told they have a UTI' idea with 'having to pee frequently' (since that's an indication of a UTI, and also what's going on with you, and your urine has tested negative, etc.)
posted by sentient at 10:41 PM on August 1, 2008

You don't need to avoid cranberry because the juice is acidic. You can go to the drugstore or vitamin store and get cranberry supplements in pill form.
posted by IndigoRain at 9:25 PM on August 2, 2008

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