What motivates someone to seek treatment for lower urinary tract symptoms?

Lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) can have a negative impact on quality of life. Yet not all of those who report having LUTS seek clinical care for their symptoms. In a paper in The Journal of Urology, the Symptoms of Lower Urinary Tract Dysfunction Research Network (LURN) sought to understand and evaluate reasons why people do or do not seek treatment for LUTS.

To understand the patient perspective, LURN researchers examined both qualitative interviews and data collected through questionnaires from people with LUTS, including individuals who had and who had not sought care. They also included people expected to have diminished bladder sensations (e.g., participants with lower back surgery, participants aged 65+) to further diversify the sample.

Among those who provided a clear reason for seeking or avoiding treatment, 74 percent did seek treatment for LUTS. Most (94 percent) of those who sought treatment said that they were motivated by the presence or impact of a particular symptom. Of those people who did not seek treatment, nearly one-half (47 percent) felt their symptoms were not severe enough to motivate them to seek treatment.

Other reasons for not seeking treatment included:

  • a belief that the symptoms were normal, that no treatments were available for their symptoms, or that the available treatments were not worth it (e.g., the participant did not want to take more medicine or deal with side effects)
  • lack of money/insurance to pay for treatment
  • fear that seeing a provider would lead to discovery of serious health conditions

These additional reasons suggest a number of barriers and misconceptions regarding the treatment of LUTS that could be addressed through assessment and education from a health care professional.

“Given the importance of symptom severity for treatment seeking, health care providers might mention to patients that treatment options exist for urinary symptoms so that if mild symptoms worsen, the patient knows that strategies exist for them,” said lead author Dr. James W. Griffith. “This is especially important because urinary symptoms may not be uppermost in a person’s mind when talking with their doctor, especially if the person is dealing with a multitude of different symptoms.”

Further studies should examine what factors lead people to mention, or not mention, LUTS to their health care provider.