Shockingly, there are 100,000 people in the UK living with Multiple Sclerosis. The side effects of Multiple Sclerosis can have a huge impact on a person’s quality of life.
Studies over the years have found the condition to affect self-esteem, social life and mental health. Surprisingly, one key problem affecting quality of life in MS patients is incontinence. A review on the treatment of bladder problems in MS patients studied the impact that incontinence has on individual lives. 70% of patients classified the impact bladder symptoms had on their life as “high” or “moderate”. Fear of having an accident can be very worrying and can affect all aspects of life including work, social life and relationships.
What are the Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple Sclerosis is an autoimmune disease. In our bodies, a substance called myelin protects the nerve fibres in the central nervous system, helping messages travel quickly and smoothly between the brain and the rest of the body. In individuals with multiple sclerosis, the coating protecting your nerves is damaged, causing a range of symptoms. The most commonly known symptoms are the following:
- Uncontrolled Muscle Movements
- Problems with balance
- Loss of vision
- Difficulty with coordination
The specific symptoms that appear depend on which part of your central nervous system has been affected. Symptoms are therefore different for each individual.
The Less Talked About Symptom: Urinary Incontinence
When the brain and body don’t communicate effectively, this causes control issues for bodily functions such as urination and voiding. Continence also requires a coordination between bladder muscles and the sphincter, so any disruption in the signals can create unwanted problems that can be embarrassing to manage. Nerve damage from MS can even affect how the body interprets the signals between the brain and the bladder. The muscles that store the urine and the muscles that empty the bladder are therefore often affected. Unwanted leakage can occur when lesions block or delay transmission of nerve signals in areas of the central nervous system that are in charge of controlling the bladder. This can cause sudden leakages. Mark, Multiple Sclerosis blogger and campaigner asserts, “during the journey I suddenly felt the need to pee. Not the slow, rising need everyone normally feels after a few drinks. No, a sudden switch. From no need at all to desperation”. The most common types of incontinence caused by Multiple Sclerosis are urge incontinence and stress incontinence. Many MS patients are less mobile, which can often lead to constipation. As a result, also sometimes lead to overflow incontinence.
What to Watch Out For
It is important to pay attention to any changes you notice in your urination pattern. Noticing that you urinate more frequently than you previously did is a main warning sign of incontinence. Finding you leak urine and can’t reach the toilet on time is another key issue that should not just be ignored. Additionally, finding you wake more than once a night to urinate is something that shouldn’t be classed as normal.
The treatment method for you depends greatly on your type of incontinence. However, the most common treatment method is sacral nerve stimulation, which helps by correcting the messages that run along our nerve pathways. It consists of a device being implanted under the skin in the upper buttock. Found out what kind of urinary incontinence you have in our advice sections:
Sometimes, medications may be needed for your circumstance and you will be prescribed the most suitable option for you.
Symptoms of incontinence are often treatable and should not be something you simply learn to live with. Healthy bladder function is essential for long-term kidney health, prevention of infection, self-confidence and quality of life. It is therefore vital to see a Doctor about your problems to improve your quality of life.