You might hear about frequent urination in women, and think men are safe until they age. But frequent urination in men occurs at all ages, and it happens to both quite often.
If you think bladder issues affect only women or elderly men, think again. More than 60 percent of men and women experience some kind of problem with urination, a 2016 review of surveys reports. The problems often start with frequent urination, which hits nearly 40 percent of men before the age of 39, and nearly half of women.
If you need to go eight or more times a day, you meet the medical definition for frequent urination. But things can get more complicated. If you often get a sudden urge to urinate during the day, your problem is defined as “overactive bladder.” You might leak or wet yourself before you reach the toilet. Some people wake up two or more times during the night to urinate. You might leak urine when you sneeze or dribble at night on the sheets. Too many people end up with symptoms of overactive bladder combined with other issues.
You’ll hear that loss of bladder control is “just a normal part of getting older” and may assume doctors can’t help. Actually, you shouldn’t just tolerate the problem. Don’t be embarrassed: talk to your doctor or a gynecologist or urologist.
What causes overactive bladder or frequent urination?
If you don’t empty your bladder completely when you urinate, it may become overactive. Constipation can trigger frequent urination in women and men. Treating diabetes and estrogen dips after menopause will help. The problem may begin in pregnancy.
Other causes of a frequent urge to urinate
- Drugs. Caffeine, alcohol, antihistamines like Allegra and Claritin, and other drugs can make you urinate more. Medications for high blood pressure or fluid buildup also can lead to frequent urination in women and men.
- Prostate problems in men. The urethra carries urine out the body in men. An enlarged prostate can press against it and block the flow. The bladder wall reacts by contracting even when the bladder contains only small amounts of urine.
- An obstruction in the bladder. This might be a tumor or stones. A urologist can locate the problem.
- Dementia or cognitive decline after a stroke. Mental decline may interfere with signals from the bladder to the brain.
Natural remedies for overactive bladder
Try cutting back on fluids and eliminating caffeine and alcohol. Nicotine and artificial sweeteners may irritate the bladder wall. Some people have fewer symptoms when they avoid certain foods.
You can also set up a schedule of going to the toilet every two or four hours, rather than waiting for the urge.
All women need to work out their pelvic floor muscles (remember Kegels?). When you get that "gotta go" feeling, first squeeze and then relax your muscles as quickly as you can. Do these "quick flicks" several times in a row when you feel the urge.
You could also coach yourself to delay urinating. You might start with a delay of a half hour after you first feel the urge. Another technique is to wait a few minutes after urinating and then try to urinate again — to make sure you completely empty your bladder.
Other treatment for overactive bladder
Before you go to your primary care doctor, keep a diary for three or more days, noting when, how much, and what you drank; when you urinate; and any accidents. Are your symptoms worse when you don’t drink enough? Or after you drink coffee?
A specialist might request an ultrasound scan of your bladder. You’ll urinate into an uroflowmeter to measure the volume and speed. In a bladder-pressure test a catheter fills your bladder with warm water while another catheter records the pressure from your vagina or rectum.
Medications for overactive bladder are the most established treatment, according to a 2012 review of research by the well-regarded Cochrane group. The medications work better than bladder training alone.
If medication doesn’t work, there are a variety of electrical stimulation techniques available.
March 25, 2020
Janet O’Dell, RN