What causes urinary urgency?

Urinary urgency can be caused by conditions affecting nearby structures, infection, inflammation, injury, irritation, kidney or bladder stones, nervous system abnormalities, and tumors.

Inflammatory and irritative causes of urinary urgency

Urinary urgency may be caused by inflammatory or irritative conditions including:

  • Exposure to chemicals in soaps, spermicides, lubricants, bubble baths, or other substances
  • Interstitial cystitis (inflammation of the bladder wall unrelated to infection)
  • Prostatitis (inflammation of the prostrate)
  • Reiter’s syndrome (form of arthritis)
  • Trauma
  • Urethritis (inflammation of the urethra)

Nervous system causes of urinary urgency

Urinary urgency can also be caused by nervous system abnormalities including:

  • Brain or spinal cord injury
  • Brain or spinal cord tumors
  • Multiple sclerosis (disease that affects the brain and spinal cord causing weakness, coordination, balance difficulties, and other problems)
  • Parkinson’s disease (brain disorder that impairs movement and coordination)
  • Spina bifida (incomplete closure of the spine during development)
  • Stroke
  • Traumatic brain injury

Other causes of urinary urgency

Urinary urgency can also be caused by other diseases, disorders or conditions including:

  • Benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH; enlargement of the prostate that occurs with age)
  • Kidney or bladder stones
  • Overactive bladder syndrome
  • Pelvic organ prolapse
  • Sexually transmitted diseases, such as gonorrhea and Chlamydia
  • Tumors of the bladder or urethra
  • Urinary tract or prostate infections

Serious or life-threatening cause of urinary urgency

In the case of severe trauma, urinary urgency may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting.

Questions for diagnosing the cause of urinary urgency

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your urinary urgency including:

  • When did you first notice your urinary urgency?
  • Do you have any other symptoms?
  • Is there anything that increases or lessens your urinary urgency?
  • Do you have any other medical conditions?
  • Have you experienced any trauma?
  • Have you made any changes to your diet?
  • What medications are you taking?

What are the potential complications of urinary urgency?

Because urinary urgency can be due to serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

  • Adverse effects of treatment
  • Avoidance of sexual activity
  • Chronic or frequent urinary tract infections
  • Decreased bladder capacity
  • Inability for self-care
  • Kidney damage or failure
  • Ongoing or worsening symptoms
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID, an infection of a woman’s reproductive organs)
  • Scarring of the urinary tract
  • Sepsis (life-threatening bacterial blood infection)
  • Social isolation
  • Spread of a sexually transmitted disease to a partner
  • Spread of cancer
  • Spread of infection
  • Weight gain (reduced exercise from fear of leakage)


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  2. Urinary incontinence. FamilyDoctor.org. http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/urinary-incontinence.html.
  3. Bope ET, Kellerman RD (Eds.) Conn’s Current Therapy. Philadelphia: Saunders, 2013.
  4. Domino FJ (Ed.) Five Minute Clinical Consult. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2013.
  5. Barkin J, Folia C. Emerging therapies: what’s new is old and what’s old is new. Can J Urol 2012; 19(Suppl1): 49-53.
  6. Nygaard I. Clinical practice. Idiopathic urgency urinary incontinence. N Engl J Med 2010; 363:1156.

What is urinary urgency?

Urinary urgency is the sensation that the bladder must be emptied immediately regardless of bladder volume. Urinary urgency can occasionally wake a person from sleep and is sometimes accompanied by urinary incontinence, or the loss of urine. Other symptoms that may accompany urinary urgency include bloody or pink-colored urine (hematuria); cloudy urine; difficulty urinating (dysuria); feve... Read more about urinary urgencyintroduction


What other symptoms might occur with urinary urgency?

Urinary urgency may accompany other symptoms that vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the bladder, urethra or prostate may also involve other body systems.

Urinary tract symptoms that may occur along with urinary urgency

Urinary urgency may accompany other symptoms affecting the urinary tract including:
<... Read more about urinary urgencysymptoms

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 20, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Kidneys and the Urinary System

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