DEAR ABBY: I am writing in response to the letter from "Can't Stand It in N.J.," whose boyfriend wets the bed every night. There are many misconceptions about incontinence. Chances are he refuses to see a physician because he is embarrassed or may not understand the treatment options and resources available to him. Abby, he is not alone in this. An estimated 25 million Americans are plagued by incontinence problems.
Incontinence, if left undiagnosed and untreated, can be debilitating. It may cause the loss of independence, self-respect and healthy sexuality. But, despite these potential consequences, the majority of people with incontinence -- 66 percent -- have never discussed the subject of urinary health with a doctor or nurse.
It's time to help people address this "taboo" subject. The National Association for Continence (NAFC), is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to educate the public about the causes and cures for incontinence. We offer a free packet of information about incontinence, including a brochure titled "Seeking Treatment" to help prepare for a visit with a doctor to make a first visit as productive as possible.
Please encourage any of your readers with questions about incontinence to call our NAFC toll-free number (800) 252-3337. It is staffed by a full-time health educator to answer questions for callers. We also have a Web site, www.nafc.org, filled with information about incontinence, treatment and management options.
I strongly encourage "Can't Stand It" to contact NAFC for information and present it to her boyfriend so he can be educated and encouraged to seek help. Incontinence can be managed or treated -- and it will allow both of them to improve their quality of life together. -- NANCY MULLER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NAFC
DEAR NANCY: Since printing that letter, I have received letters from readers informing me that incontinence can be caused by a variety of ailments -- which include allergies, spinal cord problems, a sleep disorder and kidney disease, to name a few. Most of these problems can be dealt with if a person is willing to discuss them with a medical professional.
"Can't Stand It" indicated that her boyfriend steadfastly refused to see a doctor about his problem, and she had reached the end of her rope in waking up every morning in a wet bed, so I told her it was time to say goodbye. If this was something he couldn't help, I wouldn't have been so quick to say it. However, it's hard to find sympathy for a person who is not willing to help himself.