As we get older, bladder issues become more common. This is true for both women and men. Lower urinary tract symptoms – such as leaking a little urine when laughing or coughing or, for men, having difficulty starting or maintaining a urine stream – are, in fact, so common among older adults that people mistakenly may believe treatment isn’t an option. This is, however, not the case at all. In fact, seeing a health care provider at the first sign of a bladder-related issue is key to avoiding more complex urinary problems.
“Symptoms can start somewhat innocuously and be very minimal, but can progress over time if not treated,” said Blount Memorial board-certified urologist Dr. Michael Douglas. “For instance, men who experience urinary issues related to a benign enlarged prostate (BPH) over many years may get to the point where their bladder simply wears out and doesn’t want to function any more. When this happens, the only treatment may be some form of catheterization. If men are evaluated and treated early, their symptoms almost always can be significantly improved and they can avoid living with a catheter,” he explained.
Men with BPH who seek treatment early also may be candidates for a novel therapy, called the UroLift® System, which Douglas specializes in and introduced to Blount County earlier this year. Designed by an engineer and a physician, the UroLift® implant lifts and holds the enlarged prostate tissue out of the way so it no longer blocks the urethra.
“UroLift® is the most minimally invasive procedure available for treating BPH-type symptoms,” Douglas said. “What it seeks to do is permanently increase the diameter through which a man has to urinate. I’ve been performing the procedure for three or four years, and the data indicates good long-term viability,” he said.
Douglas – who treats both men and women – adds that a wider array of innovative and minimally invasive treatment options are available to women, too, when they seek help early. Symptoms such as urinary frequency and urgency, overactive bladder and urinary incontinence, he says, can be resolved with treatments available at Blount Memorial, such as medication, Botox injections and sacral neuromodulation (a reversible treatment that uses a small device to send electrical impulses to nerves located in the lower back).
For older adults, in particular, Douglas says early treatment of bladder issues is essential for avoiding complications related to urinary tract infections. “For a healthy young adult or middle aged adult, a UTI can be bothersome at worst and can be treated with medications,” Douglas said. “In the elderly, however, a UTI quickly can become dangerous to their health. Many times the first signs of a UTI in the elderly are mental status changes and confusion. Traditional symptoms, such as burning with urination or cloudy, malodorous urine also are good signs that someone has a UTI that needs to be treated immediately,” he added.
To make an appointment with Dr. Douglas, call East Tennessee Medical Group – Urology at 865-980-5260.