November 12, 2010 / 7:15 PM / 9 years ago

Spouse can help in painful bladder problem

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Spouses who provide pleasant distractions can take their partners’ minds off an exhausting and excruciating bladder condition, a new study finds.

“Our data suggest that providing support in the form of reading to the person in pain, or simply talking to them about your day, present events or the children can be useful in taking their mind off their pain,” lead author Jessica Ginting of Queen’s University in Canada told Reuters Health.

The women in the study had interstitial cystitis, or painful bladder syndrome, in which they constantly experience symptoms of a urinary tract infection, such as needing to urinate frequently (up to 60 times within 24 hours), which disrupts their sleep. The condition is also marked by “consistent and crippling” pain in the lower abdomen and pubic region, Ginting added.

An estimated 1.3 million Americans suffer from interstitial cystitis, 1 million of them women. The condition’s cause is unknown and there are only a few treatments, all aimed at relieving symptoms, but with limited effectiveness.

To investigate whether spouses can help women cope with their unrelenting discomfort, Ginting and her co-authors asked 96 women with the condition to answer questions about their level of pain, depression, quality of life and how their spouses respond to them when they aren’t feeling well.

The women lived in Ontario, Canada, Illinois and upstate New York and had been diagnosed with the condition for an average of 6 years.

The authors found that spouses who tried to distract their partners helped them take their mind off of their pain - the pain was still there, but it had less of an impact on women’s sense of well-being.

Healthy distractions also help keep women active and engaged with the outside world, Ginting added. “Trying to help the person in pain become more involved with enjoyable activities is another great example of what a partner can do to improve a person’s relationship and quality of life,” she said. “Research is clear that slipping into a sedentary lifestyle following the onset of pain is a gateway to disability.”

Distractions likely work, Ginting explained, by preventing women from consciously processing their pain, which diminishes its impact on their emotional well-being.

Negative responses from spouses - such as expressing irritation, anger, frustration or ignoring the sufferer when she’s in pain - did not appear to have a negative impact on women’s experience of their pain, but that does not mean these responses are okay, Ginting added. “It is clear in other research that these responses must be avoided,” since they have been linked to depression and disability in people with the condition, she said in an e-mail.

Ginting concluded that she hopes the findings, which appear in the journal BJU International, help encourage women and their partners to talk to each other about how to cope with chronic pain. “This disease is tough on couples, families, and patients, and our research shows that how the couple interacts may be a key to a better quality of life for the patient.”

SOURCE: BJU International, online November 2, 2010.

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