Frequent urination (also called urgency incontinence) is common for people with diabetes, and it may be an early indication of high blood sugar levels. High blood sugar levels trigger the kidneys to work harder to filter blood glucose into the urine. This can cause excessive thirst and the urge to urinate.
Although many people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes mellitus experience frequent urination, this issue sometimes has other underlying causes. Here’s how people with diabetes manage frequent urination and what you can do to prevent it from significantly affecting your life.
Everyone’s bathroom habits are different, so it can be tough to know if you’re experiencing the urge to urinate more often than what’s considered “normal.” Members of DiabetesTeam reach out to others for feedback and advice when they’re unsure of a new symptom.
For instance, many members have noted that frequent urination at night (known as nocturia) affects their sleep quality. One wrote, “I get up one to two times almost every night to urinate. Is that related to diabetes?”
Another member said, “I could not sleep well last night. Every two hours, I must go and urinate. This is depressing me.”
In addition to keeping you awake, frequent urination can make long car trips, meetings, concerts, or long movies a challenge. You may feel anxious about finding a bathroom or getting to the restroom quickly while in public.
Frequent urination causes the urgent need to empty your bladder. But after doing so, you may still have the sensation of having to urinate — or it may return quickly. Feeling like you must urinate although you just went can be frustrating and make it hard to distinguish between the true need to go and a false, lingering sensation.
An overactive bladder is a condition that includes frequent urination, and it’s defined as urinating eight times or more during the day and twice or more at night. People with an overactive bladder may notice a strong and sudden urge to urinate, sometimes causing leakage. Polyuria (excessive urination) is a different condition where one urinates a larger volume than normal each day.
The frequent urge to urinate can range from being a minor inconvenience to a major limiting factor in your willingness to travel, exercise, or engage in sexual activity. If leakage is an issue, you may worry about having an accident in public or needing to bring extra clothing and underwear with you. Some people carry incontinence products to deal with unexpected issues when not close to home. Getting symptoms under control (such as frequent urination) can be crucial to minimizing any negative impacts of diabetes on your quality of life.
High blood sugar levels are a common cause of frequent urination. That’s why frequent urination may be one of the first symptoms people notice before getting diagnosed with pre-diabetes, or when their diabetes is out of control.
In addition, some forms of diabetes medication cause urinary side effects, including SGLT2 inhibitors such as empagliflozin (Jardiance).
People with diabetes are also more prone to urinary tract infections (UTIs). Over time, diabetes can lead to nerve damage in the urinary tract, impairing sensory function. Infections can result if the urine stays in a person’s bladder for too long because they don’t feel the urge to urinate.
Other potential causes of frequent urination include:
If high blood sugars are to blame for frequent urination, you’ll work with your health care provider to explore strategies to maintain better control of your diabetes. Perhaps it’s time to switch up your medication, adjust your eating habits, increase your exercise level, or find better ways to manage stress.
Other treatments for frequent urination will vary based on the cause, such as antibiotics to clear up a UTI or surgery to fix incontinence from a weak pelvic floor. For an overactive bladder, there are medications to relax the muscles and nerves for better control.
Additional interventions that can help manage frequent urination in diabetes may include:
Don’t hesitate to tell your doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms like frequent urination. Whether it’s a new symptom of diabetes or something that’s been going on in the background for years, it’s important to know why it’s happening and what you can do about it. If you feel like you aren’t satisfied with the first attempts at treatment, you can seek a referral to a urologist for further testing.
You can also find new ideas to bring up to your doctor from discussions on the DiabetesTeam site. For instance, one member shared, “The only thing I am having trouble with is incontinence! I developed that just a few years ago and have been under the care of a urologist. I learned something new from her — that they can use Botox to help with the incontinence, but it has to be repeated every six months or so.”
DiabetesTeam is the online social network for people with diabetes and their loved ones. On DiabetesTeam, more than 120,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with diabetes.
Have you experienced frequent urination with diabetes? What other symptoms do you have, and how do they affect your daily life? Share your thoughts in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.