Bladder dysfunction, which occurs in at least 80% of people with MS, can usually be managed quite successfully. Treatment strategies for bladder management include dietary and fluid management, medications, and intermittent or continual catheterization (inserting a thin tube into the bladder to remove urine).
Bladder dysfunction occurs when MS lesions block or delay transmission of nerve signals in areas of the central nervous system that control the bladder and urinary sphincter. The sphincter is the muscle surrounding the opening of the bladder, that controls the storage and outflow of urine. It is this muscle that gives people voluntary control over urination.
Symptoms and Complications
Symptoms of bladder dysfunction can include:
- Frequency and/or urgency of urination
- Hesitancy in starting urination
- Frequent nighttime urination (known as nocturia)
- Incontinence (the inability to hold in urine)
These symptoms can be caused by a “spastic” bladder that is unable to hold the normal amount of urine, or by a bladder that does not empty properly and retains some urine in it. Retaining urine can lead to complications such as repeated infections or kidney damage.
Left untreated, bladder dysfunction also could cause emotional and personal hygiene problems that can interfere with normal activities of living and socialization. It is therefore important to seek appropriate medical evaluation and treatment early, so that the cause of the bladder symptoms can be determined and treated, and complications avoided.