10 Things Your Bladder Says About Your Health
Bladder problems are often associated with the very old and infirm. But guess what? Adults of all ages, including many who are seemingly healthy, can have unusual bladder symptoms -- and they can be warning signs of problematic health conditions.
"The urinary system can be a real canary in the coal mine," says Jill Rabin, chief of ambulatory care and urogynecology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Hyde Park, New York, and coauthor of Mind Over Bladder. "If you have a significant change in your bladder habits, you may have a problem with the bladder itself or the pelvic organs, or it may be a sign of a larger systemic problem."
Here are ten problems that unusual bladder symptoms may signal:
1. Possible bladder message: Sleep apnea
What it is: Sleep apnea is a breathing disorder in which abnormal pauses in breathing during sleep can last a minute or longer, causing the person to abruptly wake up. (Apnea is a Greek word "meaning without breath.") "Untreated sleep apnea is becoming more and more commonly diagnosed by urologists," says Adam Tierney, a urologist with Dean Clinic in Madison, Wisconsin. That's because regular doctors can't see it during checkups; it's the night urination that's noticed first.
More than 12 million people have sleep apnea, and many more are thought to have it but not know it. In March 2011, Israeli researchers reported that in a group of men aged 55 to 75 who had benign prostate enlargement (BPE) and reported nocturia -- the need to get up at night to urinate -- more than half of their night wakings were probably actually attributable to sleep apnea.
What you may notice: Awakening at night to urinate as often as every two or three hours. With sleep apnea, the person wakes up because of the breathing lapse and then decides almost on autopilot to use the bathroom. By morning, he or she is aware that, "Gee, I'm getting up at night to pee a lot," rather than that breathing has been briefly stopping. Other sleep apnea symptoms include snoring and daytime sleepiness.
What you can do: Report excessive night urination to your doctor so its true cause can be pinpointed. Sleep apnea is treatable with several different devices designed to facilitate breathing, as well as surgery.
2. Possible bladder message: Out-of-control diabetes
What it is: When blood sugar is poorly controlled, nerve damage can result. Diabetics usually know that this can result in a loss of sensation in the extremities. But nerve signals may also be unable to appropriately reach the muscles that govern urination, Rabin says.
What you may notice: A frequent feeling of needing to use the bathroom, even when you don't, or a lack of sensation that it's time to void, which causes you to wet yourself. You may also be excreting larger-than-normal amounts of urine with poorly managed diabetes. That's because the body tries to rid itself of excess glucose through the urine.
What you can do: Talk to your doctor about ways of better controlling blood sugar through diet and exercise. Many diabetics don't think to report incontinence symptoms because they don't link them to their disease.