a couple shopping for adult diapers at the grocery due to parkinson's disease and urinary dysfunction

The Silent “U” in the ABCs of Parkinson’s Symptoms

Urinary dysfunction ... the silent "U" in the ABCs of Parkinson’s symptoms.

I think there must be a Parkinson’s symptom for every letter of the alphabet. The Letter "U" is a letter people really do not want to talk about.

Say "urinary dysfunction" and people run away from the conversation feeling dirty, disgusted, imagining smells, and embarrassed.

How common is urinary dysfunction?

According to studies, 30 to 40 percent of people with Parkinson's have urinary difficulties or urinary dysfunction. However, urinary incontinence is less common, developing in about 15 percent of people with Parkinson's.1

I have Parkinson’s related urinary dysfunction. I have had issues talking about it. I’m now dealing with the problems. There. I’ve said it. How about you?

Why talk about it?

Because of stigma, embarrassment, and the misconception that urinary problems are just part of getting old, urinary dysfunction is underreported by people with Parkinson’s as well as the general population.2

One type of urinary problem is overactive bladder, or the sudden, uncontrolled need or urge to urinate. Some people will experience the need to pass urine multiple times a day and night, while some will leak urine when they feel the urge to urinate.3

Urinary dysfunction, at a minimum, negatively affects quality of life and can lead to difficult to treat urinary tract infections, sepsis, and death.4

Quality of life effects include higher risk for falls due to having to urinate at night and increased isolation due to embarrassment and social stigmas. About 50 percent of nursing home admissions list urinary dysfunction as a major factor in admissions.5

What are the symptoms?

The most common urinary symptoms people with Parkinson’s experience include:1

  • Frequent need to urinate
  • Trouble delaying urination once aware of the need, creating a sense of urinary urgency
  • Less frequently, difficulty initiating a stream or emptying the bladder

I have experienced the first 2 symptoms listed, along with leaking or sputtering. Not all the time, but episodically and almost every day.

What to do about it

Be honest with your doctor and report any urinary tract issues ASAP. Your next step will most likely be with a urologist. Your urologist will perform tests and examinations to rule out other problems. My doctor looked for benign prostatic hyperplasia and prostate cancer.

There are medications and surgery methods to treat these conditions. I have had surgery for benign prostatic hyperplasia. Barring any of these conditions, your symptoms related to Parkinson’s may be treated by medications. Your doctor may also recommend exercises such as kegels.1

For those with leakage issues, absorbent pads are available for both bedding and clothing. I take medications and episodically used pads. I encourage you to stay socially active, even it it means wearing pads.

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