How can bladder function be affected by multiple sclerosis (MS)?
As with other MS symptoms, the kinds of bladder problems vary from person to person and can change over time. People may:
- Have trouble controlling the release of urine (incontinence)
- Experience a sense of having to go right away (urgency)
- Experience frequent urges to urinate (frequency)
- Have difficulty in starting to urinate or in sustaining a steady stream (hesitancy)
In fact, some people may experience urinary retention and will require some form of intermittent catheterization. All these symptoms usually indicate problems in the functioning of the muscles that control urination, although urinary tract infection (UTI) must be eliminated as a cause.
An appointment with an advanced practice nurse or physician assistant to initially (begin to) assess the bladder symptoms is helpful. Initial bladder assessment includes obtaining a thorough history from the patient and focusing on the primary concern.
You may be asked to urinate during the time of the appointment. The amount of urine may be measured. Please come to the appointment well hydrated with the need to urinate.
The specimen will be checked for a urinary tract infection through laboratory urinalysis (UA) and culture and sensitivity (C&S). Other tests may be done if needed.
Some recommendations for treating bladder symptoms can be made after the initial assessment. However, if we are not able to help with your bladder symptoms or if you continue to experience frequent bladder infections you may be referred to a urologist (a specialist in the urinary system). The urologist can help evaluate the cause of the problem through evaluation of the upper and lower urinary tracts. Other treatment options may include Botox® or surgical interventions.
Do not try to self-treat your bladder problems by drinking less fluid! This can lead to constipation or urinary tract infections.