Read an Excerpt
A New Day for Bladder Disorders
Bladder Disorders Present An Enormous Challenge to both the people who have them and the doctors and other health-care professionals who treat them. Unlike heart problems, arthritis, or a number of other widespread disorders, bladder problems are enmeshed in a complex web of negative social attitudes that make talking about them painful, even to our closest relatives or friends, and make asking for help difficult if not impossible for many. Because of the stigma associated with bladder function -- and dysfunction -- people who have such problems often suffer intensely from guilt and shame, which may prevent them from seeking the help they so desperately need. Even some doctors are not comfortable in talking about bladder disorders, especially urinary incontinence.
Perhaps because these problems are rarely life-threatening, their symptoms are not taken seriously by some doctors, who believe that they have more important things to do than deal with "a little urinary leakage" or yet another recurrence of cystitis. To make matters worse, many doctors do not understand how to correctly diagnose bladder disorders and misdiagnosis is common. In most cases, a misdiagnosis rarely leads to grave illness or death. It may, however, condemn the sufferer, who may have waited years before venturing to get help, to many more years of painful isolation.
If you are suffering from a bladder disorder, or someone you care about is, you have probably discovered that this problem is different from most other medical conditions. We hope that this book will not onlyserve as a guide to the diagnosis and treatment of bladder dysfunction but will also provide some much-needed perspective to help you confront a bladder problem as you would a stroke or a heart condition. With the exception of cancer, bladder disorders are not normally life-threatening. But they can dramatically diminish the quality of your life. More than anything, knowledge about treatment and coping strategies can help to minimize the impact of a bladder disorder on your life.
Myths And Realities
In the atmosphere of shame and secrecy that surrounds bladder disorders, a number of deeply rooted myths abound. The most prominent myth is that bladder disorders are relatively rare. If you have a leaky, painful, or dysfunctional bladder, you may, like many other people, believe that you are the only person with such a condition. In fact, millions of people have bladder disorders.
Another widespread myth that is believed not only by bladder sufferers but by many doctors and health professionals as well, is that bladder disorders are often caused by psychological factors or stress. So, even if you manage to overcome your fears and ask for help, your doctor may fail to take your symptoms seriously. In addition, many people and many doctors believe that few treatments for bladder disorders exist. Neither of these assumptions is true. While some bladder disorders, like numerous other medical conditions, may be exacerbated by stress, they are not caused by it. Furthermore, there are quite a variety of treatments, self-help remedies, and coping techniques that can help almost everyone who suffers from bladder dysfunction.
In addition to the myths noted above, there are myths about the specific bladder disorders that discourage people from getting help:
- That incontinence is an inevitable consequence of aging. Incontinence is, in fact, a symptom of many health conditions to which the elderly are particularly vulnerable, but it is not caused by aging.
- That no effective treatment for incontinence exists. In fact, there are quite a number of treatments with which the majority of suffererscan be cured or made significantly better. Almost everyone can be helped in some way.
- That there is no effective treatment for bedwetting in school-age children or adolescents. Waiting for bedwetting to resolve is agonizing for children and parents alike. As with adults, effective strategies for curing this problem do exist.
- That recurrent cystitis can only be treated on an episode-by-episode basis. Although it is not known what makes some people so susceptible to recurrent cystitis, it is often possible to figure out what is triggering recurrences, and a rational program to control them can be undertaken.
- That interstitial cystitis is a rare condition of post-menopausal women and that nothing can be done to help them. Perhaps as many as 500,000 people have some form of this mysterious condition; far from being a post-menopausal condition, the average age when symptoms arise is forty, and 25 percent of people with the disease are under thirty years old. And although no definitive cure exists, there are numerous treatments to help mollify symptoms and control flare-ups.
- That the cystitis-like symptoms of "urethral syndrome" are essentially stress-related or "all in your head." This controversial condition is not well understood, but it is not a phantom condition -- and there are treatments that can be used to control symptoms.
- That male sexual activity -- either too much or too little -- influences prostate enlargement and that sexual dysfunction is the probable outcome of treatment. Prostate enlargement is probably hormonally stimulated. Today, advances in equipment, surgical techniques, and patient education help preserve sexual function in most men.
- That bladder cancer is always fatal. Bladder cancer is not nearly as lethal as many other forms of cancer. Most bladder cancers are superficial tumors that are treatable if caught in time.
- Understanding bladder disorders can help dispel these myths and help you overcome obstacles that they impose when you are seeking medical treatment.