Dean Elterman, MD, FRCSC,
Assistant Professor, University of Toronto, Toronto Western Hospital, Toronto, ON.
This supplement provides an overview of nocturia, its impact on patients and various treatment options available to the general practitioner. Nocturia is a common condition, whereby patients are awakened from sleep with the need to urinate. Typically associated with older patients, it can also occur in younger populations. It is often underreported and attributed to aging by patients, indicating the importance of screening by physicians.
Its causes are numerous and multisystem in nature, including congestive heart disease, kidney dysfunction, diabetes and nocturnal polyuria – an over production of urine at night. Nocturia is a lower urinary tract symptom, and may be seen with several common urologic conditions such as overactive bladder and benign prostatic hyperplasia.
Nocturia is particularly important because of its impact on quality of life. Frequently waking to pass urine can leave patients chronically fatigued and sleep deprived, leading to impairment during the day and at work. For those at risk of falls and fractures it can be a cause, especially with poor visibility at night. Patients who are unable to make it to the washroom urgently may experience episodes of incontinence during the night. As a possible symptom of many different diseases, nocturia may be the presenting complaint that prompts further investigations and eventually leads to a diagnosis and treatment. It may be associated with other urinary tract conditions including infection and inflammation. Its diagnosis is equally important because of available treatments for either the underlying disease or for nocturnal polyuria—a common cause of nocturia.
This publication focuses on nocturnal polyuria as a common and treatable cause of nocturia. Diagnosis of nocturnal polyuria is made via history, physical exam and frequency-voiding charts. Treatment is tailored to the degree that the patient is symptomatic and begins conservatively with reduction in fluid intake (alcohol and caffeine) before bed, timed voiding and sleep hygiene. Many patients are unaware of the impact that their habits have on nocturia, and simple changes may be very effective.
Medical management involves desmopressin taken as an oral disintegrating tablet before bed which acts as an antidiuretic hormone to reduce urine production overnight in a short acting manner. Newer formulations have significantly lower rates of hyponatremia which must be measured before initiating therapy.
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