Urinary incontinence affects about 25 percent of reproductive age women, and with age, that percent increases sharply. It’s one of the biggest quality of life factors, says Leslee Subak, MD. Another big one is sleep — and the two go hand in hand.
“If we can find a drug to treat one and effectively decrease the other too, that could be big for improving quality of life,” Subak told me.
Subak and colleagues conducted a study that analyzed the effectiveness of a drug called fesoterodine, which helps the bladder control unwanted contraction. After deeming the drug safe and effective for curtailing incontinence, they followed up with another study that explored its ability to help women sleep better at night as well. Their findings were published in Obstetrics & Gynecology this week. As described in our release:
Women in the study recorded their baseline sleep patterns, the majority reporting that they were getting up one to two times per night to urinate. Those numbers may not seem bad on paper, but Subak said disrupting the sleep cycle at least once every night can start to take a toll.
'Getting up one time per night is acceptable for most people, but twice really starts to be disruptive and is associated with poorer quality of life and more daytime sleepiness,' Subak said.
Women in the study who took the drug reported better sleep: Instead of having to empty their bladder once or twice a night, the group, on average, reported urinating just once per night, or not at all. Subak points out that finding a drug that can simultaneously address urinary incontinence and poor sleep is crucial for women, especially as they get older.
Subak says it’s imperative that physicians think of treating patients holistically — and that’s where drugs like fesoterodine could come in. If an older woman complains of sleeplessness at night, that could be an indication of urinary incontinence, which may disrupt her sleep cycle. Subak says that, perhaps even more critically, urinary incontinence is a huge contributor to fractures and bone breakage in the geriatric community.
“If an older woman has to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, there's poor lighting, there’s obstructions on the floor; they could trip and fall and have a hip fracture,” says Subak. “And that can be very detrimental in an older woman. So this is another area of interest that we want to explore improving through treating overactive bladder and incontinence.”