Urinary Incontinence, Frequency, Retention

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: May 2015.

Bladder dysfunction is a common symptom with MS which includes problems with urination such as incontinence, frequency, and retention. These types of bladder problems affect an estimated 8 out of 10 people with MS. Bladder dysfunction can usually be managed or treated successfully using several different approaches depending on which problem(s) you have.

What causes bladder problems in people with MS?

In MS, lesions or scars on nerves of the CNS can slow down or interrupt nerve signals. When lesions or scars are located on the nerves that control the bladder and urinary sphincter (the muscles that control the flow of urine from the bladder), they can lead to bladder dysfunction.

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What are the symptoms of bladder dysfunction?

Bladder dysfunction typically involves one or more of the following:

Symptoms of Bladder Dysfunction

Frequency and/or urgency: Increase in the frequency or urgency of urination without an increase in the total daily volume of urine

Hesitancy in starting urination: Decrease in the flow or force of the stream of urine, typically with difficulty in beginning the flow

Frequent nighttime urination (or nocturia) : Excessive need to urinate at night

Incontinence: Unintentional loss of urine, occuring frequently enough and with enough loss in terms of urine volume to cause physical and/or emotional distress

If left untreated, symptoms of bladder dysfunction may lead to urinary tract infections, bladder infections, or kidney damage. Bladder dysfunction may also cause emotional distress and/or problems with hygiene, as well as interfere with normal everyday activities and socializing.

How are bladder problems managed?

The management approach to bladder problems depends on the specific type and source of the problem. Your doctor may refer you to a urologist, a doctor that specializes in problems with the bladder, to get to the source of your problem.

Approaches to managing bladder dysfunction include medications, dietary and fluid management, and urinary catheterization (or cathing, for short) on an intermittent or continual basis. Cathing involves inserting a tube through the urethra into the bladder to drain urine.

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