If you’re having bathroom-related MS symptoms, you’re not alone. Hear from a group of women and neurologists as they talk about the importance of being open about your issues, especially with your healthcare provider.
Bowel & Bladder Function
BATHROOM CONCERNS: DISCUSSING WITH YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
Dr. Wanda Castro: My name is Wanda Castro. I work with Biogen, and I will be your host on She Talks MS. Today we will be talking about bowel and bladder function. What is it like talking about these topics with your healthcare provider?
Ann Marie J.: The conversations that I often have with my healthcare provider is just in terms of am I hydrating myself enough, you know, how much should I really have in a day? How can I get more of it, you know, where, is it possible maybe we could introduce fruit into my life and things like that.
Wanda: What about you Kim?
Kimberly D.: He encourages me to drink a lot of water, but I do anyway. My cutoff, my time to stop, is usually like 4:00 or 5:00 o’clock, because anything after that, then it becomes a sleep disturbance, and then you're fatigued the next day.
Wanda: How common are these symptoms in your practice?
Dr. Klineova: They’re very, very common. I sometimes think that if patients say that they don't have any bowel and bladder issues, maybe it's that they just don't want to disclose it.
Dr. Kaplan: Approximately 80 percent of people with MS experience some form of bladder problems. I find that the more I ask, the more people tell me. But if you don't ask, as a healthcare provider, oftentimes it doesn't ever get mentioned.
Dr. Klineova: Sometimes you know, you have to be sort of a detective, because if you just ask, do you have any bladder issues, some people, women, just say, nope, I'm good. So then I ask well, do you change your daily routines because of the bathrooms? Do you know where the bathrooms are? Or, you know, did you stop drinking fluids at some point of the day? How are you changing your behavior because of the bladder? And sometimes, that sort of opens eyes.
Wanda: Dr. Klineova what other healthcare providers are part of the team for patients living with MS regarding bowel and bladder?
Dr. Klineova: So, for the bladder issues, we often seek consult from urologist. It's ideal if you find a urologist who has a special interest in multiple sclerosis. For female, we also sometimes pull in OB/GYN doctors. For bowel issues, are usually gastroenterologists.
Dr. Kaplan: And I think the other important team members to add are the primary care doctor who can be really helpful as the first person to call sometimes when there's a suspected urinary tract infection, or something like that. And also, a therapist or a social worker, because a lot of these issues have a profound effect on quality of life.
Wanda: So, do you feel more comfortable talking about bowel issues or bladder issues?
Kimberly D.: I feel more comfortable, honestly, talking about both of them because I hid this for two years thinking, oh, something was wrong with me. And now that I know it's not wrong with me, it's part of, a symptom of the disease, I feel like, hey, if you don't know about this, I'll be glad to share it with you.
Wanda: How did you feel before?
Kimberly D.: Before it was almost an embarrassment to leave the house.
Wanda: So emotionally, you felt like it was embarrassing.
Kimberly D.: Yes, or even, I mean, like physical activity, if it was very vigorous, I, you know, I would get embarrassed. But you learn to, over time, to cope with things.
Pam S.: It’s a lot easier for me to talk about bowel and bladder problems with my healthcare provider now, because what I found is that, if I don't bring it to them, they can't help me fix it.
Ann Marie J.: Through the years, it's gotten I guess easier to talk about, but, in my younger years, oh, it was scary. I think I handle my bladder issues by talking with others and hearing their story. So, having these type of exchanges and talking to someone and hearing their story and how they go about their lives, especially when you're a jetsetter, it gives me hope and it makes me go, you know what, this is doable.
Pam S.: With women, we're going to talk about it. I mean, that's how I found out that I shouldn't be afraid of self-catheterization.
Kimberly D.: And you have to look at the MS as like you first look at it as, okay, you're this unwanted friend that entered my body. Who are you? But now, it's like, you have to come to a time where you accept and like, face the fact. This unwanted friend is going to be around, so let's work together and figure out how we can last years together nicely and make this a productive relationship, even though you're still unwanted.
Ann Marie J.: Exactly. And it's not defeat. You know, just like you said, it's not defeat. You know, it's just a new way, a different way of doing what needs to be done.
Wanda: Thank you so much. And we hope that anyone that is looking at us, gets some additional tips and is willing to talk to their healthcare providers. Thank you so much.
All: Thank you.
Everyone’s experience with multiple sclerosis (MS) is different. Your healthcare provider should always be your primary source of information. The people in this video are paid spokespeople for Biogen.