Ask the Experts: How Can a Spinal Cord Injury Impact my Urinary Health?

Ask the Experts: How Can a Spinal Cord Injury Impact my Urinary Health?

Your spinal cord lets your brain to talk with your bladder. When your spinal cord is injured, the signals that travel between your brain and your bladder can be damaged or cut off.

Neurogenic bladder is the health term used to describe urinary issues in people who lack bladder control due to a brain, spinal cord or nerve problem. It takes many muscles and nerves working together for your bladder to hold urine until you are ready to release it. If these nerves become damaged your muscles may not be able to tighten or relax at the right time, causing bladder problems.

Neurogenic bladder can result from Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's, a spinal cord injury, spina bifida or a stroke.

There are several treatment choices for neurogenic bladder. They include medications, surgery, electrical stimulation therapy or Kegel exercises. In some cases, wearing absorbent underwear and pads may be helpful in dealing with urinary leakage. Based on the severity of the spinal cord injury, your doctor will suggest which care plan is best for you.

Most often, spinal cord injury patients have trouble draining their bladder and may need a catheter. A urinary catheter is a hollow, flexible tube used to help empty the bladder. This option carries a higher chance of getting Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs). Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics at low doses to lessen the risk of UTIs.

Problems with your bladder can be life changing. Working with your healthcare provider to build a bladder care plan is a key part of living with neurogenic bladder.

Michael J. Kennelly, MD is a urologist in Charlotte, North Carolina.