What is Polyuria?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Polyuria is a medical symptom in which someone produces an unusually high volume of urine. Sometimes people just urinate a lot because they drink a lot of fluids, but sometimes polyuria is a symptom of an underlying medical condition which needs to be addressed. This symptom can be accompanied by polydipsia, defined as increased thirst; the two conditions are often linked in a cycle as the body struggles to cope with an imbalance going on inside.

Untreated diabetes can lead to severe dehydration as a result of polyuria.
Untreated diabetes can lead to severe dehydration as a result of polyuria.

Polydipsia and polyuria are two hallmark symptoms of diabetes which can be an important diagnostic clue. However, polyuria can also be caused by a wide range of other conditions. For example, sometimes people with buildups of fluid such as ascites and edema start to express the fluid in their urine. Certain medications can also cause it, with diuretics being a notable example, and there are many other health conditions associated with excessive urination.

People experiencing polyuria and excessive thirst for more than a few days should see a doctor.
People experiencing polyuria and excessive thirst for more than a few days should see a doctor.

People with polyuria find that they need to eliminate urine frequently, and that when they do urinate, the urine volume may be higher than normal. If a lot of water is being consumed at the same time, the urine may be relatively pale in color. In some patients, polyuria occurs more at night, with people getting up multiple times during the evening to urinate. Sometimes people can wet the bed because they don't realize how urgently they needed to pee.

People with polyuria may need to cut down on coffee and tea consumption.
People with polyuria may need to cut down on coffee and tea consumption.

If polyuria happens on a single day and someone remembers drinking a lot of fluids, especially tea or coffee, probably no medical attention is needed, especially if no other abnormal symptoms are noted. The body is simply processing the fluid it doesn't need and getting rid of it. While this can be inconvenient, it is not a cause for alarm; though it may be a cause to moderate coffee and tea intake in the future. Patients who know that they have conditions which cause excessive urination may take the polyuria as a sign that the condition is not being well managed, and it is time to see a doctor to evaluate the current treatment plan.

Polyuria can lead to severe dehydration if left untreated.
Polyuria can lead to severe dehydration if left untreated.

When a patient experiences polyuria combined with excessive thirst and it goes on for more than a day, it is time to take a trip to the doctor. The doctor can evaluate the patient to explore possible causes, and use some diagnostic tests to learn more about the patient's situation. Hopefully, treating the condition causing the excessive urination will also resolve the polyuria. Patients should be aware that many of the conditions which are associated with excessive urination are chronic, so treatment is focused on management, not finding a cure.

Polyuria is a medical symptom in which someone produces an unusually high volume of urine.
Polyuria is a medical symptom in which someone produces an unusually high volume of urine.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


I think it makes a lot of sense that polyuria is usually accompanied by polydipsia. After all, if you're thirsty, you're going to drink a lot more liquid. And when you drink more, you need to go to the bathroom more.

I can see how this would also cause other problems too! I've heard that you can actually drink too much water and mess up the balance of minerals in your body. So I imagine someone with polydipsia might drink enough water to have a negative affect on their health!


@kylee07drg - I've only ever used diuretics by accident when I was on my period. Some medications that are targeted towards menstrual symptoms have diuretics in them to help you combat bloating, I think. I didn't really feel any different than usual, and I certain didn't experience the same symptoms as diabetes mellitus polyuria.

Also, I will definitely second what the article said about going to the doctor if you have polyuria for longer than a day. My friend was diagnosed with adult diabetes awhile ago.

She was having polyuria for quite awhile before she went to the doctor, and developed some other symptoms too. She could have saved herself some trouble if she had went to the doctor right away.


I got dehydrated from being out in the hot sun all day, and I fainted. I had been urinating a lot, and though I kept drinking water, I kept feeling as though I had not yet replenished my fluids.

When I came to, an EMT was there, taking my blood pressure. He said I had severe hypotension, which is low blood pressure. He told me that I had become dehydrated from the heat.

I guess that some days are just too hot for you to combat by drinking a lot of water. I had sweated and urinated out far too much, and this had nearly killed me. I had to be hooked up to an IV to get rehydrated properly.


I never fail to develop polyuria at the most inconvenient time. Every time I go on a vacation that involves hours of driving, I have to urinate so often.

I think this is probably because I tend to drink more when I’m bored, and nothing is more boring than sitting in a car with no view but the highway and trees. I drink caffeinated sodas for enjoyment, but this means I have to stop about once an hour at a gas station to use the bathroom.

While I’m in the station, I usually buy another fruity or fizzy drink. This leads to more polyuria down the road.


@Oceana - Diuretics are the worst! I tried taking one, but I just could not tolerate the excessive thirst and extreme output of urine.

I was participating in a clinical trial for a drug to treat polycystic kidney disease. The drug was supposed to dehydrate the cysts on my kidneys, but as a consequence, it would make me really thirsty, and I would have to drink a lot to replace all the fluids I would be urinating.

I drank eleven 20 ounce bottles of water on the first day of my medication. I had to urinate every half hour, and there was so much urine that it seemed like I hadn’t gone all day every time!

No matter how much I drank, I remained thirsty. My mouth was so dry. I got exhausted from having to go to the bathroom every thirty minutes, and I decided that I just could not live that way for the rest of my life.

I’ve heard that hypokalemia can be caused by polyuria. For those who do't know, hypokalemia is a severe drop in the potassium inside your body, and it can be brought on by urinating too much of your potassium out.

My mother had to be on a diuretic for a short time. She didn’t have the healthiest diet in the world, so she probably already didn’t get enough potassium from the foods she ate. After being on the medicine for a few days, she got very tired and started having severe muscle cramps.

She went back to her doctor, who suspected that she had lost too much potassium. He took her off of the diuretic temporarily, and he told her she needed to start eating bananas and potatoes to increase the potassium in her diet. Once her levels had returned to normal, she would be able to tolerate the polyuria caused by the medicine, as long as she kept eating the right foods to replenish her potassium.


Interestingly enough, polyuria can also occur in animals because of the same polyuria causes that affect humans! I have an older cat who has diabetes. But the original reason I took him to the vet was because he was drinking a ton of water and using his litter box much more than normal.

I actually thought he had something wrong with his kidneys because he was going to the bathroom so much. However, when I took him to the vet she suspected he had diabetes and confirmed it with a blood sugar test. Then she put him on insulin and his bathroom habits went back to normal.

Post your comments
Forgot password?