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Multiple Sclerosis (MS) & Bladder Control Problems

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that attacks the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord and optic nerves). The disease damages the myelin sheath that surrounds nerve fibers, as well as the nerve fibers themselves. Damage to myelin and nerve fibers interrupts nerve impulses traveling to and from the brain and spinal cord.

As a result, those who have multiple sclerosis can experience a variety of symptoms. One of the first symptoms of MS is vision problems, such as double vision or heavy blurring.

Some of the most common symptoms of multiple sclerosis include:

  • Fatigue
  • Numbness
  • Difficulty walking
  • Spasticity (muscle stiffness and involuntary muscle spasms)
  • Bladder control problems

Other symptoms may include:

  • Bowel dysfunction
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Dizziness
  • Chronic pain
  • Cognitive changes
  • Depression and emotional changes

The symptoms of MS are unpredictable and can vary widely from one person to another. They may differ by type of symptom, severity and progress. For some people, symptoms may flare up for a short period of time and then go away, although they usually reappear again at some point. For others, symptoms may be long-lasting and progressive. The good news is most people with multiple sclerosis can learn to manage the disease as well as its associated bladder control problems and live productive lives.

Facts about MS

  • Approximately 400,000 people in the U.S. live with multiple sclerosis. Every week, more than 200 more people are diagnosed with the disease. It is estimated that more than 2.1 million people worldwide have MS.
  • While the disease can develop at any time in a person's life, most people are diagnosed with MS between the ages of 20 and 50.
  • For the general population, the chance of developing multiple sclerosis is 1 in 750. However, anyone who has a parent, sibling or child with MS has a 1 in 40 chance of developing it.
  • Multiple sclerosis is 2 to 3 times more common in women than in men.
  • Multiple sclerosis occurs across ethnic groups, although it is more prevalent in Caucasians of northern European ancestry.
  • Interestingly, MS is more prevalent in countries that are farther from the equator and less common in areas closer to the equator. Scientists are investigating whether increased exposure to sunlight and vitamin D the body makes when exposed to sunlight has a protective effect on those living nearer the equator.

Bladder Control Problems

Approximately 80% of people who have multiple sclerosis have bladder control problems such as:

  • Urinary incontinence
  • Urinary retention
  • Frequent urination, especially at night (nocturia)
  • Sudden and overwhelming urge to urinate
  • Hesitancy when trying to urinate (the urge to void exists, but it is difficult to initiate the flow or keep it going)

How Does MS Cause Bladder Control Problems?

Bladder control problems occur as a result of damage to the nerves. Specifically, lesions on the spinal cord disrupt the nerve signals that travel from the brain to the bladder and urinary sphincter (the muscle that controls the opening of the bladder). When this happens, either the bladder or sphincter muscle becomes spastic (contracts or spasms involuntarily), causing bladder control issues.

If the bladder is spastic, it doesn't hold urine and causes you to leak or urinate involuntarily (urinary incontinence). If the sphincter muscle is spastic, the bladder doesn't empty completely and you retain urine (urinary retention).

Treatment for Bladder Control Problems

Fortunately, bladder control problems can be managed successfully in a number of ways:

  • Regulating and carefully timing your intake of fluids
  • Limiting or avoiding the consumption of alcohol and caffeine
  • Catheterization with intermittent catheters, an indwelling (Foley) catheter or an external catheter

There are also a number of medications available to treat bladder control problems, including:

  • Drugs that promote the flow of urine (Minipress® [prazosin], Hytrin® [terazosin] and Flowmax® [tamsulosin])
  • Drugs that reduce bladder spasms (Ditropan® [oxybutinin])
  • Drugs that relax the sphincter muscle (Zanaflex® [tizanidine hydrochloride] and Lioresal® [baclofen])
  • Drugs that decrease urine output by the kidneys (DDAVP® [desmopressin])

If bladder control problems are not treated, they can damage the urinary tract. Urinary retention can lead to urinary tract infections and kidney or bladder stones. Urinary incontinence can lead to skin breakdown and infection, as well as embarrassing situations that interfere with a person's daily activities and ability or willingness to socialize. To avoid complications, it's important to seek treatment at the first sign of any bladder control problems.

Manage Bladder Control Problems with Catheters from FreedoMed

If you have MS and are dealing with associated bladder control problems, FreedoMed can help. We have a high quality selection of catheters for you to choose from so you and your doctor can decide what is right for you. Best of all, with self-catheterization you can manage your bladder control issues without relying on anyone for assistance. And if you're on Medicare and have a doctor's prescription, you could get your catheters for free! Apply today and see if you qualify for free catheters to manage your bladder control problems!

To learn more about MS, visit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

*Co-payments, deductibles and some restrictions apply.