STATE COLLEGE, CENTRE COUNTY - One in 4 women and one in 10 men struggle with a medical condition that's uncomfortable and embarassing. An overactive bladder is one of the causes of incontinence. Medications, exercise, and surgery can help, but a local doctor offers a non-surgical, non-drug treatment designed to retrain your bladder.
"I was always looking for the next lavatory, making sure I knew where it was," says Merlee Graybill. The Centre Hall woman could probably give you a guided tour of the restrooms in Centre County, but you'd better hurry. Thanks to her new treatment, she's starting to forget where they are.
Merlee undergoes percutaneous tibial nerve stimulation--PTNS for short, while relaxing in a recliner at the Mt. Nittany Physician Group offices.
Medical Assistant Katrina Earnest locates the tibial nerve near Merlee's ankle and inserts a small narrow gauge needle. The nerve goes into the spine in the same area as nerves that control the bladder.
The needle connects to a device that sends mild electrical pulses to the nerves that signal the bladder. Merlee says it makes her foot tingle a little bit.
Mt Nittany Urologist Dr Howard Miller says the treatment soothes the bladder, easing the feeling of urgency. "It retrains the bladder so that those behaviors are no longer present really at the source of the problem, which is the roots of the nerves that go down and enervate the bladder and control its function," he explains.
Dr Miller says PTNS relieves incontinence symtpoms 80 percent of the time, but it doesn't work immediately. For some patients, it can take months. Merlee started to get control after three weeks says says,"it is such a relief. It has changed my life."
Now she sleeps through the night and she no long has "accident." Merlee was on her ninth treatment when we visited with her.
Dr Miller says PTNS gives patients a more natural bladder function than the medication, but it's just part of a wide spectrum of treatment that he offers.
He says, "I don't believe in one-size-fits-all medicine. Each patient who comes in we, we asssess their individual needs. We assess their individual wants ,what their goals are, what they're looking for and sometimes what may be a success for one patient may not be successful for another."