If I am experiencing frequency, how can I tell if it’s from OAB or infection?
By Board Certified Urologist, Dr. Yana Barbalat
First, let’s discuss the definition of urinary frequency. Urinary frequency is the complaint of voiding more frequently than previously deemed normal. Traditionally, we used to define frequency as having more than 8 voids per a 24-hour period, however, what’s “normal” is different for everyone, depending on fluid intake and many other factors.
There are many reasons why one would experience new onset frequency. I will discuss some of the most common reasons in this blog.
- Urinary tract infection- When there is a UTI, the frequency is often accompanied by burning while urinating. Most of the time, a urine analysis and culture will indicate an infection. If the culture is negative, then an infection is very unlikely. Occasionally, people can have an infection with an “atypical organism” that is not easily cultured. This is rare, but occasionally, special urine cultures are required to get to the bottom of the problem.
- Increased fluid intake- What goes in must come out! People who drink a lot of fluid will urinate often. There are some fluids that irritate the bladder and cause frequency. The biggest culprits are sodas, diet drinks, store bought iced teas, coffee, alcohol, spicy foods.
- Stress – Stress and anxiety can trigger urinary frequency. Occasionally, a very stressful event or period can trigger urinary frequency which can become quite debilitating. The more frequently a person urinates, the more often their bladder WANTS to urinate. It becomes a cycle. Behavioural techniques and bladder retraining will often break the cycle. Occasionally, medicines are needed to help.
- Overactive bladder- For most people who have overactive bladder, urinary frequency is accompanied by an urgency to void. When they have to go, they HAVE to go! Occasionally, it is hard for people to make it to the bathroom in time and they begin to leak urine. It’s rare for frequency to exist by itself, without urgency, in patients with overactive bladder. Fortunately, there are many ways to treat overactive bladder. These treatments include behavioural techniques, physical therapy, homeopathic over the counter supplements, prescription medicines, and minimally invasive treatments such as botox injections into the bladder wall!
- Diabetes, neurological conditions, and other medical conditions can cause frequency as well. If you have frequency, it’s important to see your general medical doctor for a full evaluation.
In conclusion, the human body is super complicated and there are many causes of urinary frequency! If you have new onset frequency, see your general medical doctor for a proper evaluation and possible referral to the right specialist.
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