How MS affects the bladder

March 8 2016

Did you know that 8 out of 10 people living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) experience bladder problems? And that the risk of developing MS is significantly higher for women than for men?

So, with the International Women’s Day in mind, we will put extra focus on MS and the bladder today!



Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

MS is an inflammatory disease that afflicts the central nervous system, the brain and the spinal cord. The isolating layer surrounding the nerves (myelin) is lost, leaving scar tissue called sclerosis, also known as plaques or lesions. These damaged areas slow down nerve impulses.

Urinary system control and function are often affected bNerve_cell_axon_wrapped_myelin_MS.pngy this slowing of nerve signals. Over time, about 80 % of people living with MS experience bladder problems.

How MS affects the bladder

People living with MS can experience different kinds of bladder issues. One is if the nerve damage results in frequent, uncontrollable urges to empty the bladder even though the bladder is not full. This condition is termed overactive bladder (OAB).

Another issue is when the nerve lesions result in a lack of coordination during emptying, so that the bladder contracts against a closed bladder sphincter, trying to empty the bladder. This is called detrusor-sphincter dyssynergia and will cause incomplete emptying of the bladder and increased pressure in the bladder which may, if the bladder is not emptied regularly, lead to kidney damage. Other conditions include weak contraction of the bladder musculature leading to incomplete emptying of the bladder. It is important to evacuate the urine in the bladder so that it will not cause a urinary tract infection or build up high pressure that can then affect the kidneys.

The importance of treating bladder problems consistently

For people with MS, it is particularly important to continue with prescribed bladder emptying treatments in the same way over time. The progression of the disease can swing wildly, making proper urination harder in some periods, and easier in others. But even a small amount of residual urine can lead to urinary tract infections. This in turn has been shown to potentially cause new attacks or the return of an attack that had previously receded.

Clean Intermittent Catheterization (CIC) can help

For people with enough dexterity to handle a catheter, self-catheterization with a disposable catheter (CIC) is a safe and convenient way to empty the bladder. It is effective whether the problem is an overactive bladder or retention.

  • It’s easy and safe, and while it may feel a little weird at first, it does not hurt
  • It prevents residual urine, reducing the risk of urinary tract infections which reduces the risk of a new attack or recurrence of old one
  • It empties the bladder completely, preventing the backflow of urine that could damage kidneys
  • Because it empties completely, there’s less risk of urine leakage.

Click the button to learn more! You will find a download link for a downloadable and printable 'enCATHopedia' about MS and the bladder, and as an extra bonus you will also find filmed interviews with two women with other diagnoses, who both practice CIC for emptying their bladder.

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Topics: Clean Intermittent Catheterization (CIC), Multiple Sklerose (MS)