There you are in a deep sleep when it happens again: Themounting pressure on
your bladder, the sensation to urinate, the inability to avoid leaking a little
before making it to the bathroom. It happens several times a night. And you may
have been living with this discomfort and inconvenience for years.
This frequent urge to urinate during the night or day, perhaps even to the
point where it?s almost impossible to "hold it," may be due to an
overactive bladder. According to the American Foundation for Urologic Disease,
overactive bladder affects about one out of every 11 adults, and this is likely
an underestimate because many people are too embarrassed to talk about the
problem with their doctor. Some people also will leak urine when they feel the
urge to urinate, a condition called urge incontinence.
Hannah Kalil is 83 years old, and lives by herself in upstate New York. She
has aides who help with her caregiving throughout the day. But the
responsibility of managing her finances, health care -- both mental and
physical -- and long-term living situation falls to one person: her daughter --
and my mother -- Eleanor.
It's almost a full-time job. Making sure my grandmother is happy and not
feeling lonely means daily visits. Her never-ending stream of medical issues
means weekly -- if not...
The condition often affects sleep quality, but it can be just as troubling
during the day. "This translates to someone who can't go an hour or two
without urinating, someone who constantly searches for bathrooms and plans
outings based on this," says Kenneth Goldberg, MD, a Dallas urologist.
"It's a problem that has serious impacts on lifestyle and quality of life.
Some people are miserable. Most of the time, we really don't know why it's
Bleak as this may sound, there's hope -- in the form of treatments and
common-sense measures that can make life nearly normal again, or at least
Although researchers have not been able to nail down a single cause, some
things are known. The symptoms of overactive bladder can be the sign of an
underlying problem such as a urinary-tract infection. When the infection is
treated, symptoms will clear. But in many other cases, overactive bladder
occurs when no other illnesses can explain it.
For instance, the condition is associated with aging, says Wendy Leng, MD, a
urologist at the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center.
"Just as with other parts of the body, with wear and tear, the bladder just
doesn't perform its function as well as it used to."