Overactive Bladder vs Dehydration: How Seniors Can Find a Healthy Balance

Frequent Urination vs Dehydration

Frequent urination, or overactive bladder, can be a serious problem for the elderly. As we get older, natural changes in the body can lead to needing to go more often, not being able to finish urinating completely when you do go, or the necessity of taking medications that might lead to a stronger urge to urinate. Add in problems like kidney stones or urinary tract infections and suddenly, it might feel like you need to use the bathroom all the time!

When that happens, you might start looking at your beverage consumption with suspicion. If you drink more, you’re going to urinate more, right? So you might be very tempted to stop drinking as much water, no matter how thirsty you become. But that turns into a vicious cycle, because when you’re dehydrated, you might actually urinate more often.

That doesn’t seem to make sense, does it? To make things clear, let’s start with talking about frequent urination and why it happens.

Overactive Bladder in Seniors: Why Does It Happen?

There can be many reasons why seniors feel the need to urinate frequently. These might include:

·        Issues with the prostate. As the prostate gland enlarges with age or with some medical conditions, it puts growing pressure on the bladder. That pressure on the bladder can make you need to urinate much more often. You might also not empty the bladder fully when you go, which makes you need to go again rather soon.

·        Uncontrolled diabetes. As glucose builds up in your blood, your body tries to get rid of it in the best way it knows how: to pee it out. If you have very high blood sugar, you might be running to the bathroom quite often.

·        Hormonal changes. Once you have gone through menopause, the hormones in the body change. Producing less estrogen can lead to changes in the urinary tract that result in more frequent urination.

·        A weakened pelvic floor. Pelvic floor muscles can help you control your urination. As they get weaker with age, nerve damage, or other problems, the urgency to go and an inability to hold it can become a problem.

·        Urinary tract infections. The elderly are much more susceptible to infections of the urinary tract. As the body fights to clear the infection, you will urinate more frequently.

·        Some medications. You might be on prescription medications that have a diuretic effect, meaning that they prompt your body to release retained water.

·        Nerve damage. Conditions like multiple sclerosis, diabetes, or Parkinson’s can affect the nerves around the bladder, which can then lead to problems with urinary incontinence and urgency.

Frequent nighttime urination, known as nocturia, occurs when you need to go more than twice during six to eight hours of sleep. While it can often be attributed to the reasons listed above, it might also have an underlying cause, such as restless leg syndrome or insomnia. When you are awakened in the middle of the night, it is typical to need to urinate.

Managing Frequent Urination

Fortunately, there are ways to manage frequent urination. The first step is to talk to your doctor about what is happening. The culprit might be an underlying condition, prescription medications you are taking, or other factors that your doctor can easily treat. Perhaps your doctor can switch you to a different medication or a nutritionist can help you revamp your eating habits to help you lower your blood sugar levels.

There are other options, such as bladder control training and pelvic floor exercises, creams and gels that can help relieve the urge to urinate frequently, treatments that might mitigate nerve damage, and prescription medications.

While these medications may help with overactive bladder, the National Institute on Aging warns that some of these medications have been linked to a higher risk of cognitive decline in seniors.1 Talk with your doctor and carefully weigh all of your options.

Lifestyle changes for frequent urination can include taking timed bathroom breaks, staying close to a bathroom in case the urge strikes, wearing easy-to-remove clothing that speeds up the process of going, using absorbent underwear or pads when you are out of the home, and limiting caffeine. Caffeinated tea, coffee, and sodas can make you urinate more often.

One of the most common tips for slowing down nighttime urination is to stop drinking liquids at some point after dinner. This helps ensure that by the time you go to bed, your bladder is empty and you aren’t getting up as often at night to pee.

And while this can work well to solve the problem of excessive urination at night, extending that restriction on water throughout the day can dehydrate you, and that can lead to urinating more frequently at all hours. So how does that work?

Let’s take a look at what it means to be dehydrated.

The Basics of Dehydration

Your body absolutely must have water. It plays a role in every process of your body, including regulating your temperature and helping your joints move properly. But as we get older, several things happen in your body naturally that lead to dehydration.

·        The amount of fluid in your body decreases overall, leaving you with fewer reserves of water to pull from when you become dehydrated.

·        As your kidney function declines with age, you can lose more water every time you urinate.

·        You might not feel as thirsty, even when your body is crying out for more water.

·        Certain health conditions might lead to more frequent urination, which leads to dehydration.

Water feeds every one of your cells. Without it you will suffer the consequences of dehydration. According to Healthline, the symptoms of dehydration can include fatigue, dry mouth, darker urine than usual, muscle cramps, sunken eyes, and feeling dizzy or lightheaded. As dehydration gets worse, you might experience constipation, a rapid heart rate, loss of balance and coordination, fainting, confusion, or even diarrhea (which can make dehydration much worse).2

Dehydration can come on suddenly, as it doesn’t take much loss of water to begin to feel the effects. Using a protective alert for elderly adults can keep you ready for moments you don’t expect, such as feeling weak or dizzy as a result of dehydration. The loss of balance and coordination that comes with dehydration is especially concerning for seniors, as it can lead to a greater fall risk – and falls can lead to serious fractures or even brain injury. Using a button alert to call for help in any medical emergency, including a fall, can make sure you get the help you need, right when you need it.

How Frequent Urination and Dehydration are Connected

Though many reputable sources recommend not drinking any liquids after a certain time in the evening to help avoid nighttime urination – and there is good merit to that – what happens when you are dealing with frequent urination throughout the day? You might be naturally hesitant to drink anything, even that much-needed water, if you know it’s going to send you running to the bathroom every 30 minutes.

That’s especially true if you are attending an event that makes it difficult to find a bathroom at a moment’s notice. For instance, if you are attending an outdoor festival, your bathroom options might be port-a-potties, and there might be a line to get into one. The same is true if you’re attending a ballgame in a big stadium or having a movie date with friends in a crowded multiplex.

Or let’s say the bathroom is just too far away – perhaps you are walking around the mall and the urge to urinate hits. What if the nearest bathroom is far away, somewhere past a dozen stores? Getting there in time can seem impossible and send you into a panic.

The problem becomes even worse if you have a condition that makes mobility difficult. Those who use a walker or wheelchair might find it very difficult to get to the bathroom in time once they feel the urge to go.

So it makes sense that you might hesitate to take a drink of water, even though you know you need it. But here’s the problem: the less you drink, the more you might actually need to urinate.

While it seems to make sense that drinking less liquid will result in less urination, what actually happens is that your urine becomes more concentrated. When it is more concentrated, the urine irritates the bladder. And of course, that makes your body want to get rid of the urine as soon as possible, which leads to – you guessed it – more frequent urination.

Managing Frequent Urination Without Getting Dehydrated

If drinking too much can lead to more frequent urination, how do seniors find a good balance? WebMD has some good ideas:3

·        Get more hydration through fruit. Make a point of eating fruits that contain a great deal of water, such as watermelon, honeydew, pineapple, grapes, strawberries, and more.

·        Limit liquid intake at night. Only stop drinking water a few hours before bedtime. This can help you urinate less at night but the water restriction won’t last long enough to dehydrate you. Fill up on a glass of water first thing in the morning.

·        Take diuretic medications only in the morning. This means that the most pronounced effect of it will usually happen a few hours later. Take the time to figure out how this works for your body. For example, perhaps you take the medication at eight in the morning, and you don’t deal with the more frequent urination until 10 in the morning. In that case, you have those two hours to run errands with relatively no worry.

·        Sip water throughout the day. Make it a habit to take small sips, not large gulps. This can help even out the speed with which your bladder fills and might keep you on a more reasonable schedule of bathroom breaks.

·        Keep chronic conditions under control. Talk to your doctor about diabetes, high blood pressure, and other conditions that might lead to more frequent urination. For example, bringing down your blood glucose levels might solve the problems of frequent urination within days.

·        Drink plain water. Don’t go for coffee, tea, soda, or anything with caffeine, and avoid alcohol, as these can make you pee more.

Even as you pay close attention to staying hydrated, you might still deal with unique problems of frequent urination until you and your doctor figure out a way to keep it under control. For instance, you might rush to get to the bathroom and lose your footing as you do. You might struggle to remove clothing so that you can sit down on the toilet, only to get tangled up and fall down. You might move too quickly with a walker or cane and feel the usually-helpful device slip right out from under you.

In cases like this, a medical alarm is your best friend. In any emergency, simply press the button and get help fast. That peace of mind means one less worry for you.

If you must choose between good hydration and dealing with frequent urination, staying hydrated must win out to ensure the best possible health. To that end, talk to your doctor about treatments for frequent urination so that you aren’t tempted to stop drinking the life-saving water your body needs to feel your best.