Multiple Sclerosis and Incontinence
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease that affects the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord communication). This can interfere with cognitive and bodily functions including control of the bladder and bowel. MS affects more than 25000 Australian’s and is more common in women than men. For those with MS, more than 50% will experience bladder issues. With research showing that incontinence is the most common symptom, although the severity and longevity varies from person to person.
Having the decreased ability to control the bladder for many people with MS means having what’s called Neurogenic bladder dysfunction. A neurogenic bladder may be retentive, meaning it retains urine which could cause infection or other serious problems, or it may be overactive. An overactive bladder is typically caused by spasms of the muscles of the bladder and mainly associated with symptoms of urge incontinence. Some find they need to urinate more frequently and urgently, while others may experience difficulty emptying the bladder or a feeling of incomplete emptying. If left untreated, can be severely detrimental to the course of the disease and impact greatly on the quality of life.
Some symptoms associated with MS and incontinence include:
- Urinary leakage
- Urgency to rush to the toilet
- Small or large amounts of urine leaking without warning or without feeling the urge to the toilet
- Involuntary leaking when sneezing, coughing, laughing or exercise
- The need to get up and urine 1-2 times through the night (nocturia)
Urinary retention is also possible for some people who suffer with MS, symptoms include:
- Urgent sense to urinate but inability to start the urinary flow
- Frequent visits to the toilet
- Weak flow
- Bloated urinary abdomen
- Dribble due to overflow incontinence
- Urinary hesitancy which is difficulty initiating urination
It is extremely important to regularly empty your bladder to avoid urinary tract infections as they can have a harmful effect on MS and can contribute to relapse. When the body tries to fight the infection, it triggers excess immune activity and demyelination (destruction to the coating that protects the nerves).
Taking care of your bladder must be properly managed to reduce the risks of further serious health issues. There are some simple ways to manage bladder problems. Some very simple changes to your day to day routine can assist and some more extensive treatment options are also available. These include:
- Pelvic floor exercises to strengthen the muscles.
- Bladder retraining to help reduce urinary incontinence aims to gradually stretch the bladder so it can hold larger amounts of urine.
- Lifestyle changes such as changing their diet to reduce constipation and reducing the consumption of caffeinated beverages. Timing your fluid intake to prevent inconvenient times to require visiting the toilet in public and at night.
- Medication can be used for all types of incontinence but most useful for urge incontinence, particularly when combined with pelvic floor exercises and bladder retraining.
- Catheters can be used for as an effective bladder management technique based on the regular and complete emptying of the bladder using a catheter.
- Surgical procedures are available in some cases for the treatment of bladder problems. Deciding which procedure, if any, you use depends on the type and cause of incontinence.
Treatment of incontinence will vary from person to person but some simple things like those mentioned above will assist in the prevention of ongoing incontinence and possibly even cure or avoid incontinence in the future. Always discuss your situation and/or concerns with a healthcare professional before implementing any significant changes to your lifestyle.
At Confidence Club, we specialize in moderate to heavy incontinence needs products. All our products have been carefully chosen to provide maximum comfort, ease of use, and confidence to anyone who is facing incontinence.