Where’s the Bathroom?

The Challenge of Urinary Frequency or Urgency

When daily life is limited by needing to go to the bathroom often or quickly, it is known as urinary frequency or urgency. Sometimes the condition is accompanied by stinging or burning during urination or pressure in the lower abdomen. When the need to urinate occurs more than once every two or three hours during the day or requires getting up several times during the night, it may indicate a problem.

Urinary frequency or urgency can have a number of causes, including, but not limited to:

  • Urinary tract infection
  • Diabetes
  • Pregnancy
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Stones of the kidney or bladder
  • Medications or alcohol use
  • Interstitial cystitis – a chronic inflammation of the bladder wall
  • Bladder or prostate cancer
  • Vaginitis
  • Neurological disorders, such as stroke or multiple sclerosis 


Diagnosis usually begins with a physical examination and a review of the symptoms, including whether the problem came on suddenly or has been ongoing, whether there has been a change of urine color and whether the symptoms include increased thirst, fever or pain.

The physical exam may be followed by one of more of these common diagnostic tests:

  • Urinalysis – to check for bacterial, fungal or viral infections
  • Cystometry – to measure the pressure within the bladder
  • Ultrasound – a non-invasive test that uses high-frequency sound waves to examine abdominal or pelvic organs
  • Cystoscopy – which uses a scope inserted into the urethra (the tube that carries urine out of the bladder) to examine the lining of the bladder and urinary tract
  • Biopsy – to check for cancer or other abnormalities
  • Voiding cystourethrogram – an X-ray image of the bladder and urethra taken during urination 

Treatment Options

Treatment varies depending on diagnosis, but may include one or more of the following options:

  • Medications – including antibiotics or antimicrobials for infections or medications to treat other underlying illnesses
  • Dietary or medication changes
  • Shock waves – to treat stones of the kidney or bladder that do not pass by themselves
  • Surgery using a ureteroscope (a small thin tube that is passed through the urethra and into the bladder) to remove or destroy a kidney or bladder stone
  • Physical therapy – including pelvic floor (Kegel) exercises
  • Biofeedback or electrical stimulation – to assist with Kegel exercises
  • Surgery – to remove tumors or repair urinary tract structures 

The MyMichigan Difference

  • MyMichigan facilities are conveniently located in safe and friendly communities, with easy access and parking.

Your Next Steps

For more information about urinary frequency or urgency, talk to your physician. For a physician referral, visit our Find a Doctor section, or call the MyMichigan Health Line at (989) 839-9090 or toll-free at (800) 999-3199.