Continence Multiple Sclerosis and bladder dysfunction

MS causes damage to the nervous system, which can make it difficult for different parts of the body to communicate effectively with the brain. Because of this, many people with MS have problems with their bladder.

Our guide 'Taking Control of Your Bladder Health' will help you understand how your bladder works and why having MS might affect your bladder function. You will also learn how you can make changes to control your bladder and help you feel more secure.

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There are a range of symptoms related to bladder dysfunction. Each person's symptoms depend on the severity of their multiple sclerosis (MS).

It’s possible to have one or more symptoms related to bladder dysfunction.

  • Urinary frequency is when you feel the need to urinate frequently throughout the day.
  • Urgency is when you suddenly feel a strong urge to urinate, even if you recently went to the bathroom.
  • Urinary retention is when you have not completely emptied your bladder after you've been to the toilet. You may also find it difficult to get the urine to start flowing – being unable to urinate even though you need to.
  • Nocturia is the need to get up and urinate at least once during the night
  • Reflux of urine happens when urine backs up into your kidneys because the bladder is full and has not been emptied.
  • Urinary incontinence is when urine leaks from the bladder accidentally.

People with MS suffer a range of different bladder symptoms. Symptoms vary depending on the damage or scaring each person has to their nervous system.

Bladder dysfunction can have wide-ranging negative impacts on your quality of life, if left untreated.
Depression, anxiety and physical health.
Reduced ability to move or exercise.
Fear of travel or social occasions leading to isolation.
Sleep disruption and fatigue.
Physical intimacy and relationships.
130+ people a wrrk are diagnosed with MS. 130,000 people with MS living in the UK. MS is growing at a rate of 2.4% each year.

Bladder dysfunction in the UK

1 in 10 people report bladder dysfunction

1 in 10 people
report bladder dysfunction at the time of their MS diagnosis.3

Nearly all MS patients report bladder dysfunction at the time of their MS diagnosis.

Nearly all MS patients
report bladder dysfunction at the time of their MS diagnosis.3

61% report incomplete bladder emptying according to a recent review

report incomplete bladder emptying according to a recent review.4

Urinary problems and MS

Many people with MS have symptoms of urinary dysfunction. These can usually be managed successfully with lifestyle changes. However, if you’re having problems, consider these options sclerosis (MS).

Intermittent Self-Catheterisation (ISC)
An ISC catheter is a thin, flexible tube that’s introduced through the urethra and into the bladder to drain urine. The tube is then removed and thrown away. Patients are taught how to insert the catheters themselves. ISC can give you more independence compared to other options, as it is discreet and can easily fit into daily life. Medical professionals consider ISC the gold standard of care for urinary problems.


Indwelling urinary catheters
An indwelling urinary catheter is a flexible tube that's placed through the urethra and into the bladder to drain urine. The catheter stays in the bladder permanently and urine is collected in a drainage bag. A doctor or nurse usually inserts the urinary catheter.

Alternative therapies
There are several alternative or complementary therapies that you might consider. Your Healthcare Professional will discuss what is the most appropriate solution for you.

How will ISC fit into my life?

If you think that ISC might be the right choice for you, speak to your Healthcare Professional to find out more.

There are different types of catheters designed for your comfort, discretion, and protection.

  • Touch free catheters protect against infection
  • Designed for smooth and comfortable insertion
  • Discreet enough to fit into your daily life
Catheterising during pregnancy

Benefits of ISC

  • Maintains independence
  • Reduces the risk of infections
  • Reduces the risk of damage to the urethra
  • Helps maintain kidney function and bladder tone

With the right knowledge and guidance, having a choice can make a real difference to how empowered you feel.

"There's a huge difference between ISC and indwelling. It's Independence! One patient wanted to enjoy the summer, wear shorts and go swimming. If it works for your body and you learn to ISC, you can do what you like, when you like."

Corey Knott, Nurse Continence Advisor

To discover how you can benefit from the Secure StartSM service or have any questions about the service? You can call us on 0800 3761310

1. Multiple Sclerosis Academy (2021) Multiple Sclerosis: Raising The Bar. Wilmington Healthcare.
2. Optimum clinical pathway. Multiple sclerosis (July 2019) Secondary User Services (SUS) database.
3. Panicker J.N. Neurogenic bladder, epidermiology, diagnosis and management. Semin Neuroi 2020; 40(5); 569-579
4. Al Dandan HB, Coote S, McLurg D, Prevalence of lower urinary tract symptoms in people with multiple sclerosis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J MS Care. 2020a; 22(2): 91-9.

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