Most people – particularly as they get older – have needed to wee more often than normal at some point. And there’s usually a simple explanation, like having drunk too much liquid.
But what if needing to pee a lot is a constant problem? Do you just put up with it – perhaps chalking it off as an inevitable part of ageing – or should you get it checked out by a doctor?
“Concerns about increased frequency of urinating is something that’s commonly expressed by patients and can be distressing,” says Dr Babak Ashrafi from Superdrug Online Doctor.
“It’s important to know that a rise in the need to urinate may indicate a range of issues, so it’s wise to seek advice from a healthcare professional.”
So, what could those issues be?
Ashrafi says: “Diabetes can cause increased urination due to elevated blood sugar [glucose] levels. The kidneys work to eliminate excess sugar through urine, leading to increased thirst.”
According to Diabetes UK, the urge to drink more fluids is because the body can become dehydrated as a result of this process. So, if you’re suddenly peeing more, and also very thirsty, it’s a good idea to get your blood sugar levels checked. Other signs of diabetes, adds Ashrafi, can include “unexplained weight loss and fatigue”.
Infections like cystitis irritate the bladder and urethra, causing a frequent and urgent need to urinate, explains Ashrafi. He says additional signs of cystitis include pain or a burning sensation during urination, as well as cloudy or strong-smelling urine.
Mild, short-term UTIs can sometimes clear up on their own, especially if you stay well hydrated. But see a doctor if it’s your first time experiencing these symptoms, they worsen or don’t clear up after a couple of days, or if you notice an increase in pain and other worrying symptoms, such as a fever or feeling generally unwell. Anyone who notices blood in their urine should see their GP.
Benign prostate enlargement (BPE) is very common in men over the age of 50 – although it can occasionally affect younger men too – and Prostate Cancer UK (PCUK) stresses that it isn’t caused by cancer, and doesn’t increase the risk of getting the disease.
It basically means the prostate – a small, walnut-sized gland located between a man’s bladder and rectum – has increased in size, which can cause men to feel like they need to pee more, especially at night. PCUK says around a third of men over the age of 50 have urinary symptoms, and the most common cause is BPE.
“Prostate enlargement can obstruct the urethra, causing difficulties in starting or stopping urination and resulting in a weak urine stream, which then contributes to an increase in the frequency of urination,” explains Ashrafi.
The good news is, BPE can be managed – you don’t have to just put up with it. So check in with your GP for advice. They can assess whether any further tests should be carried out too.
Many women going through menopause report needing to pee more urgently, and the NHS reports that around 70% of females say their urinary incontinence began after their final menstrual period. This is linked to a depletion of oestrogen in the urinary tract and vagina.
“Menopause brings hormonal changes that can affect the urinary system,” says Ashrafi. “Vaginal dryness, hot flashes, and mood swings may be accompanied by an increased frequency of urination.”
Gynaecological problems can be accompanied by the need to pee more, says Ashrafi. “Another reason for increased urination in women can be gynaecological problems, such as pelvic pain, abnormal bleeding, and discomfort during intercourse. These can lead to changes in bladder function, resulting in an increased urge to urinate.”
Keep a track of your symptoms and check in with your GP. You may need further tests to rule out any underlying causes, as well as advice for managing symptoms.
Pelvic floor issues
Weak or damaged pelvic floor muscles – the muscles spanning the bottle of the pelvis – in both men and women can lead to increased urination. Ashrafi explains: “Pelvic floor issues, such as weakness or dysfunction, may result in incontinence and difficulty controlling bowel movements. These issues can contribute to an increase in the frequency of urination.”
For women, this may be linked to childbirth, age and hormonal changes. But anyone can potentially be affected – it could also follow injury or other health problems, for example. The good news is, there are simple pelvic floor exercises that are proven to help. Speak to your GP or physiotherapist for advice.
Ashrafi says: “Ageing can lead to gradual changes in bladder function, resulting in reduced bladder capacity and weakened pelvic muscles, which can then contribute to a higher frequency of urination.”