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How does MS impact your bladder and bowel?

Your brain sends signals to control parts of your body, including the bladder and bowel, but MS can damage these connective signals.

Bladder dysfunction

Bladder dysfunction can develop because MS blocks or delays the nerve signals that control the bladder and urinary sphincter. This can happen both at night and during the day.

The good news is that it can usually be managed quite successfully. Treatment strategies include:

  • managing your diet and fluids
  • lifestyle factors including exercise
  • taking certain medications
  • intermittent or ongoing catheterisation (inserting a thin tube into the bladder to remove urine).

Bowel dysfunction

While symptoms of bowel dysfunction can be broad – including urgency, frequency and constipation – there are simple approaches you can take to help reduce these.

Working with your doctor or continence nurse, you can put together a simple plan to tackle bowel dysfunction. This plan could include:

  • drinking enough water each day (about 8 cups per day)
  • achieving a balanced and healthy diet each day
  • reducing physical activity when symptoms occur and immediately after eating/drinking
  • monitoring the impacts of any medications with your doctor.

This page has been reviewed and approved by Executive Manager Client Engagement and Wellbeing Jodi Haartsen. Jodi is a registered MS Nurse who has helped thousands of patients over her 20 years’ experience at Eastern Health MS service in Australia, in several roles including nurse educator, research nurse and nurse practitioner. Jodi is the 2022 winner of the global MS Brain Health Leader Award in the Independent Healthcare Professionals category.

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