More than 2.5 million people have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis worldwide, and an estimated 200 more people are diagnosed every single day. While many patients are aware of some of the more common side effects, such as fatigue and balance issues, many are unaware that multiple sclerosis also has a significant impact on the bladder and urinary tract.
If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with MS and is currently struggling with any bladder issues, here is a look at just how closely these two medical conditions are related and what treatment options may be available.
MS and the Human Body
Multiple sclerosis is a chronic neurological disorder that affects the central nervous system. This means that every component of the body, ranging from the musculoskeletal system to primary organs, could be affected. Over time, MS will damage a number of vital proteins and chemicals within the brain and spinal cord, and the body could eventually put a halt to producing more of these chemicals and proteins. This can permanently alter any number of body parts, including the nerves around the bladder, urinary tract, and sphincter.
The Link Between Incontinence and MS
It has been found in recent studies that upwards of 80% of patients who have been diagnosed with MS also report bladder problems. Generally, these issues are described as any inability to control the release of urine, a symptom referred to as incontinence. As the nerves around the urinary tract become damaged, patients may have frequent urges to urinate, trouble starting to urinate, or an inability to keep a regular flow. Urinary incontinence can be distressing and uncomfortable to begin with, but left untreated it may lead to more serious medical issues.
For urinary incontinence specifically, MS will result in the development of sclerotic plaques within the central nervous system. These plaques make it difficult for the brain and the urinary tract to communicate with one another. When the muscles cannot be controlled via the central nervous system, urination can become extremely difficult. Sclerotic plaques can be found in patients with both minor MS and major MS impairments.
The two primary issues with incontinence are the inability to fully empty the bladder of urine and the immediately clenching of muscles around the urinary tract, which means the constant urge to urinate. Left untreated, incontinence can lead to a number of other serious medical issues as urine slowly backs up and is forced into the kidneys. Urine that is forced into the kidneys will dramatically increase chances for kidney stones, urinary tract infections, kidney failure, and other urinary infections. These side effects will put a strain on the body and exacerbate other MS symptoms.