Dr Therese Burke is an MS Certified Nurse and Research Fellow at the University of Notre Dame, Australia and Clinical Platform Coordinator at MS Research Australia/MS Australia.

Dr Therese Burke

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease. The coating that protects nerves in the brain, optic nerve and spinal cord is damaged by complex changes in the body. MS is known as an autoimmune disease because it looks like the body attacking itself, for what reasons we still do not clearly know.

Bladder and bowel issues are very common in MS. For some people this may only be short-term with a relapse, and for others the problems can be more long-term.

Bladder issues can include problems with storing urine (leaking, flooding), problems emptying urine (spasms, going to the toilet for small amounts very often) or a combination of both in some cases. In the area of bowel issues, some people can experience periods of constipation or a loss of control of faeces.

There is help available. Continence nurses have special training in bladder and bowel issues. They are an important part of the management plan for people living with MS. Most MS Nurses will also have some training in continence as well and can perform initial assessments to determine the best pathway forward. This may mean some simple changes to your diet or a referral to a urologist (bladder) or gastroenterologist (bowel).

There is support and management to improve things along the way. People can get targeted help once the source of the problem is found. This support could include:

  • medications and Botox injections to calm an overactive bladder and bladder spasms
  • antibiotics to treat urinary tract infections
  • other procedures that are less common, such as catheterisation.

Go to msaustralia.org.au to learn more about MS and continence care.

Read Andrew’s story for a personal account of MS and bladder and bowel health.

This story was first published in Bridge Magazine. Subscribe and receive Bridge straight to your inbox.