DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I, like the letter-writer P.G., had to run to the bathroom constantly in order not to have an accident. I wanted to see my grandson graduate from college, so I consulted a urologist. He sent me to a place where treatments with an electrical probe were given. I went for six weeks and also did Kegel exercises. The quality of my life changed for the better, and now I square dance and do aerobics. Incontinence is no longer a problem. — E.M.
ANSWER: Electrical stimulation of the pelvic muscles has successfully allowed many women to regain bladder control. It doesn’t work for all, however. The stimulation strengthens muscles that keep the bladder closed, and controls overactive bladder wall muscles that contract forcefully and frequently.
Another technique is a device that delivers electric current to spinal nerves in the lower back. If those nerves respond to the current and keep the bladder closed, then a small unit is implanted under the skin for a permanent solution to this problem. One such device is called the InterStim.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have an EKG done every year. I also have worn a monitor that records heart activity for three days. Everything is fine.
When I fall asleep most nights, I wake after about 10 minutes with a rapid heartbeat, and sometimes it takes quite a time before it settles down and I can get back to sleep. I rarely have such a rapid beat at any other time of the day. Do you know what causes this, or what it might be? I am 57. — S.B.
ANSWER: If I had to make a guess, it would be paroxysmal atrial tachycardia, a sudden heart speedup for no reason. It’s usually not a serious condition, and it doesn’t indicate heart disease. If the rate is really fast or if the episode lasts for a prolonged period, then treatment would be needed.
No one can be sure unless the rhythm comes on when a doctor is present or when you are hooked up to an EKG machine. That monitor you wore for three days can be left on for longer stretches of time. Or you could have someone take you to the emergency department of a hospital if you can reach it somewhat quickly. You can’t obtain a diagnosis without such information.
The booklet on heartbeat disorders discusses their more common forms. Readers can order a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue — No. 107W, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Canada with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My wife, 76, has degenerative arthritis of the spine. Can you tell me if this condition will progress to total disability? — J.D.
ANSWER: Degenerative arthritis is another name for osteoarthritis, the most common kind of arthritis. Almost every 70-year-old has a touch of it. It can be in the back, knee, hip, hand, fingers and ankle, or any of these locations. The rate of progression is unpredictable. A good many can continue to do most of the activities of life with minimum disruption.
Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.
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