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Multiple Sclerosis: Bladder Problems

Topic Overview

A person with multiple sclerosis (MS) may have difficulty emptying the bladder completely, because the muscle that helps to retain urine cannot relax (a form of spasticity).

Sometimes urination can be stimulated by pressing or tapping the bladder area or by straining. Medicines can also help in some cases, including propantheline, oxybutynin (for example, Ditropan), or tolterodine (Detrol).

When these methods or medicines do not help, you may have to use a urinary catheter, a thin flexible tube that you can insert into the channel through which urine exits the body (urethra). This is called intermittent self-catheterization. A little instruction and a few practice sessions with a nurse are all that are needed to learn to do intermittent self-catheterization. The procedure is usually done at the toilet.

  • The technique provides immediate relief of symptoms and helps prevent urinary tract infections and their complications.
  • Some people who have MS may only need to use the technique for a few weeks or months, because the bladder often recovers most of its normal function.

Urinary tract infections are common in people who have MS. Your doctor should check your urine whenever you have a flare-up, fever, or change in bladder symptoms.

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Barrie J. Hurwitz, MD - Neurology
Last Revised February 15, 2012

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