Everyone gets up at night to use the restroom from time to time, and doing so occasionally is not a cause for concern. However, if an elderly loved one is in the habit of awakening every night to use the restroom, this may be a condition called nocturia. Nocturia can be disruptive to those who suffer from it, and it can also be an indication of a more serious underlying medical issue.
Issues related to nocturia
Aside from the obvious issue of sleep disruption, nocturia can lead to an increased risk of injury from tripping and falling. Elderly people must be especially aware of their surroundings at all times in order to minimize the risk of a fall, and getting up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night—when their vision may be impaired and they may be groggy and disoriented—can sometimes result in an increased danger of tripping and falling.
In addition, although nocturia may not be a serious issue in and of itself and is sometimes completely unrelated to any other serious conditions, sometimes it can be a sign of an underlying medical issue. Some issues that can lead to nocturia include elevated sugar or calcium levels in the blood, some types of kidney diseases, a possible urinary tract infection, an imbalance in hormones in the body, water retention in the lower extremities, and sleep disorders. There are any number of other conditions which may—but do not always—result in nocturia, so an elderly person dealing with nocturia should consult a medical professional for a more thorough exploration of the possible underlying conditions.
Things to keep in mind
Note that nocturia differs from person to person in the severity of its symptoms. One person may get up several times each night, whereas another may rise only once or twice. In cases such as the latter, nocturia may be seen as little more than a slight inconvenience and may not warrant remedial steps unless the condition worsens.
In addition, frequent night time urination is more commonly associated with serious medical issues in males than in females. Nocturia in a woman may be caused by something as benign as having had a hysterectomy or the body’s changing hormone levels during such times as menopause. As such, nocturia in and of itself is not too much cause for concern unless an elderly woman’s doctor says otherwise.
A woman over the age of 40 who suffers from nocturia should be encouraged to consider taking simple precautionary measures such as installing adequate lighting in the hallways, bathrooms, and living areas of the home to reduce any chance of stumbling and tripping in the dark. Further, the woman’s healthcare professional should be made aware of the condition so that he or she may investigate the matter and determine if any other actions are necessary.
Nocturia may simply be an issue of drinking too much, too late in the evening. Sufferers or their caregivers do well to adjust fluid intake in the evenings and see if that resolves the issue. It is well to keep in mind that certain fluids such as tea and coffee actually increase urinary output (in addition to disrupting sleep in many people). Such diuretics should be avoided in the evenings.
While nocturia is not in and of itself a dangerous condition, it can result in disrupted sleep and lead to an increased danger of tripping and falling. It may not be indicative of any serious underlying issue, or it may indicate the presence of a medical condition that could warrant further treatment.
Nocturia should result in a consultation with an appropriate healthcare professional to rule out any serious related conditions. Once that preliminary step has been taken, sufferers and/or their caregivers can take actions to reduce the severity of the nocturia and the elevated risks that come with it.
Installing good lighting in the living areas of the home, and making sure that all tripping hazards such as cords, loose rugs, and so on are secured and not in the path between the bed and the bathroom limit some of the hazards of nocturia. Limiting fluid intake after 5 p.m. and reducing the use of beverages containing caffeine, which increases the rate of urine production, may eliminate nocturia altogether.
Hsu, A., Nakagawa, S., Walter, L.D., Van Den Eeden, S. K., Brown, J.S., Thom, D. H., Lee, S. J., Huang, A. J. (January 2015). The Burden of Nocturia Among Middle-Aged and Older Women. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 125(1): 36-45. Available at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4286307/. Retrieved July 13, 2016.
Stewart, R. B., Moore, M. T, May, F. E., Marks, R.G., Hale, W. E. (December, 1992). Nocturia: A Risk Factor for Falls in the Elderly. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 40(12): 1217-1220.