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.
Dear Abby: I am a 15-year-old boy with one request: a girlfriend. I have tried, on five separate occasions, to explain to my mother that I'm not her little boy anymore, but I'm bad with words and my message did not get through. She's afraid I'm going to have sex and get in trouble with the cops, but I'm not that kind of person.
I know what to do and what not to do, but my mom won't listen. All I want is a little affection from someone other than my relatives. Is that so wrong? — Needs Help in Connecticut
Dear Needs Help: No, it's not wrong; it's normal. Your mother might wish to keep you "safely out of trouble," but she's going about it in the wrong way. You would be better served if your mother made certain that you know what you need to know to ensure that you make smart and healthy choices, because in a very short time you will no longer be asking her permission. No one can hold back the hands of time, and you're maturing right on schedule.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069. © Universal Press Syndicate