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Bladder Problems: How Early Treatment Can Prevent Kidney Malfunction

February 1st, 2017

graphic: bladder infection word cloudIf you're caring for someone who feels the urge to urinate but can't go, it could foretell a serious medical problem. In my mother’s case, quick action by her internist prevented possible kidney malfunction.

Mom moved to Greenville, South Carolina in 2015 because my siblings in California didn’t have time to care for her. They would drive her to doctor appointments but she needs more than just a driver. Mom needs someone to schedule appointments, accompany her to each visit, take note of the doctor’s instructions, fill in the gaps in medical records and inform the doctors about symptoms. (You might be amazed at how poor medical recordkeeping still is.) Mom rarely has any questions or comments for doctors and they rely on me to report symptoms that sometimes lead to helpful tests.

When Mom first came to South Carolina, she lived with me and my husband with the help of BrightstarCare Greenville/Spartanburg  Then she was hospitalized. One of the many things doctors found wrong with her was an enlarged kidney. They said they didn’t know what caused it, and that was the end of the discussion.

I’d forgotten about this until after she was released and I went with Mom to her internist. During the checkup, the doctor asked her for a urine sample. I mentioned offhandedly that Mom sometimes feels like she has to go to the bathroom but when she gets there she finds that she can’t urinate. I didn’t think it was important, I was just making what I thought was a minor observation. The doctor thought otherwise. She said: “Whoa! What? That’s not good. It could be that her bladder’s not emptying. She needs to see a urologist for a test to see what’s going on. “

Hydronephrosis

The urology test showed that, as suspected, my mother’s bladder was not emptying. I learned this is no small problem. It can cause hydronephrosis, a serious and sometimes painful condition that can cause kidneys to permanently lose function. One sign is an enlarged kidney. To prevent kidney problems, my mother was taught to self-catheterize and told to do it twice a day. In her 90’s now, she doubted she could do it herself but eventually she did catheterize herself and she still does. Catheterization is so important to her that her urologist says that if she didn’t she could become incontinent or even lose kidney function permanently.

That’s how important observation of older people and consultation with doctors can be. If her bladder problem wasn’t reported, or the doctor was less attentive, my mother might have developed hydronephrosis. She did not develop any problem and continues to have normal kidney function. If you are caring for an elderly person, it is important that you look for and report symptoms, even if you don’t think they are important.

Are you looking for answers? Brightstar Care of Greenville and Spartanburg can help you assess the needs of a loved one and help in any way possible. We are your local experts for in-home care, including skilled care. We can help you understand senior health problems including Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Call our Greenville SC office 864-599-0452