People with MS may have 3 main types of bladder control problems:
Difficulty storing urine happens when the nerves affected by MS mistakenly send a "bladder is full" message to the brain too early. Even though the bladder is not full, the brain thinks that it is. This leads to a frequent desire to urinate, a feeling that there is an urgent need to urinate, dribbling urine, urinary incontinence (inability to hold urine), and frequent urination at night.
Difficulty emptying urine happens when the bladder can't send the brain a message saying "I'm full" because the nerve pathways between the bladder and brain have been damaged. As a result, the bladder becomes so full of urine that it overflows. This leads to symptoms such as feeling an urgent need to urinate, dribbling urine, urinary incontinence, and trouble getting the flow of urine started once you are in the bathroom.
Combined dysfunction occurs when the muscles involved in urination become uncoordinated. In order for urination to happen, the sphincters (muscular rings that keep the bladder closed) must relax, allowing urine to leave the bladder. The bladder must also contract, pushing the urine out. If the bladder contracts but the sphincters do not relax, urine stays trapped within the bladder. The most common symptoms of combined dysfunction are dribbling of urine, urinary incontinence, an urgent need to urinate, and difficulty starting the flow of urine.
MS bladder problems can also lead to complications such as urinary tract infections (UTIs) and bladder or kidney stones. Read "How you can cope with MS bladder problems" to learn more about how to manage MS bladder problems.
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