Millions of Americans have neurogenic bladder. Neurogenic bladder is when a person lacks bladder control due to a brain, spinal cord or nerve problem. This includes people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Parkinson's disease and spina bifida, and people who have had stroke or spinal cord injury.
Major pelvic surgery, diabetes and other illnesses can also damage nerves that control the bladder.
Several muscles and nerves must work together for your bladder to hold urine until you are ready to empty it. Nerve messages go back and forth between the brain and the muscles that control bladder emptying. If these nerves are damaged by illness or injury, the muscles may not be able to tighten or relax at the right time.
In people with neurogenic bladder, the nerves and muscles don't work together well. The bladder may not fill or empty in the right way. The symptoms of neurogenic bladder differ from person to person. Symptoms also depend on the type of nerve damage they have had.
Bladder muscles may be overactive and squeeze more often than normal. Sometimes this squeezing causes urine to leak before you're ready to go to the bathroom (incontinence). With "overactive bladder" (OAB), you feel a sudden urge to go the bathroom that you can't ignore. After this "gotta go" feeling, some people leak urine-a few drops or a gushing amount.
Another OAB symptom is going to the bathroom frequently (more than eight times in 24 hours). In other people, the bladder muscle may be underactive and not squeeze when it needs to.
The sphincter muscles around the urethra may also not work right. They may stay tight when you are trying to empty your bladder. With underactive bladder symptoms, you may only produce a "dribble" of urine. You may not be able to empty your bladder fully (urinary retention). And sometimes you may not be able to empty your bladder at all (obstructive bladder). Some people have symptoms of both overactive and underactive bladder.
People with MS, stroke and herpes zoster are more likely to have both kinds of symptoms. Both overactive and underactive bladder sufferers can get repeated UTIs (urinary tract infections). UTIs are often the first symptom of neurogenic bladder.
Neurogenic bladder can be a lot to handle. Talk to your health care provider about any symptoms you have. Find out what can be done to manage your symptoms. When given treatment choices, think about what will work best for you and your lifestyle.
For more facts about the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment for this condition, please read our Neurogenic Bladder Urologic Condition article.