The human bladder has two main functions. It stores urine made by the kidneys. Then, when it is full, you have an urge to urinate and the bladder empties. When the nervous system, a collection of nerves and cells that sends messages between different parts of the body, is damaged, the message the bladder sends telling you to urinate can be effected. This is called neurogenic bladder.
Depending on the nerves affected, your bladder may either become overactive or underactive. People with overactive bladders may feel sudden urges to go to the bathroom or go more than necessary. They may also be incontinent. Underactive bladders may not empty all the way when the person urinates. This can lead to other bladder and kidney problems.
Neurogenic Bladder can be caused by the following:
- Spinal Cord Injuries
- Spina Bifida (and other spinal abnormalities present at birth)
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Transverse Myelitis
- Other forms of neurologic damage
Appropriate bladder management is key to maintaining good health and quality of life. Finding the best way for you to manage your bladder is very important and may take some time or change over time. Some options are listed below.
Here are some links to helpful pages describing the bladder management methods listed below in more detail. Though both reference spinal cord injury, these methods can be used in women with other disabilities:
- Intermittent Catheterization
- Indwelling Catheter
- Suprapubic Catheter
- Mitrofanoff Procedure
- Ileal Conduit
- Valsalva and Credé Voiding
There are medications that you can take to help control your bladder, whether it is over- or underactive. Some of these medications are more commonly used to treat other conditions so don't be alarmed if your doctor recommends them!
Pelvic Floor Exercise
Your doctor may refer you to someone who will teach you pelvic floor exercises, commonly known as Kegels, to try to strengthen your pelvic floor.
Your doctor may ask you to keep track of what you eat and drink, when you urinate or cath and the amount of urine produced, as well as noting episodes of incontinence or leakage. This can help you learn when you need to go to the bathroom based on what you ate or drank, the time of day, and other factors. Knowing this can help you prevent episodes of incontinence or leakage.
Sometimes, your doctor may recommend surgery to help you manage your neurogenic bladder. There are multiple surgeries he or she may suggest so again, don't be afraid to ask questions to determine what is best for you!