Bowel and bladder symptoms can be an embarrassing topic. Our guests share their experiences with bathroom-related MS symptoms, and our neurologists discuss how healthcare providers can help.
Bowel & Bladder Function
BATHROOM-RELATED MS SYMPTOMS
Dr. Wanda Castro: Hello everybody.
Wanda: 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. Kim, what’s your experience with bowel and bladder function?
Kimberly D.: First of all, I would separate bladder and bowel. With the bowel, I noticed for me that I don’t feel that I have to go to the bathroom. And all of a sudden, it’s like, I think I might and that’s it, it’s on you.
Pam S.: Like Kim, when I got to go I better get there, but I can kind of manage that with what I eat. I know there are some foods that I eat that I know I’m going to have to pay particular attention to my bowel after I eat.
Wanda: What about bladder function?
Kimberly D.: I noticed that my bladder—I have the urge to go. The urge is: I need to go, and I need to go now. It’s like, get out of my way. Compare it to a bathtub. It’s like, okay, you have the drain, and it’s fine. And then you pull the drain, and the water goes; it’s like someone just pulls the drain on you. It’s embarrassing for me. So that’s hard to deal with. I didn’t know it was MS related. I went a good 2 years keeping it, like, in the closet like oh, nothing’s wrong with me. I’m fine.
Dr. Kaplan: You raise such a good point. So often patients aren’t even aware that this is part of MS. Women that I see that have had children, they assume, well maybe this is because I had children, and I was pregnant, because I heard that, that can cause bladder problems.
Ann Marie J.: I have the urgency as well, but I also have the frequency. So, a lot of times when I’m drinking something, I have to be really careful because if there’s not a bathroom around within like, an hour, I have to go. I like to say, if I take a sip, and a sip, and a sip, then I make a lot of trips, trips, trips.
Pam S.: I used to be like Ann Marie, where I knew every bathroom. Whenever I had to go somewhere, the first thing I would do is scout out the bathrooms because of the urgency when I needed to urinate.
Dr. Kaplan: Problems with MS are so variable. Sometimes patients might even feel hesitancy or difficulty completely emptying. And a lot of people have a combination of those things. And so, depending on what the symptoms are, and the problems are, that’s how healthcare providers can help tailor the best way to tackle the problem.
Dr. Klineova: So when we start discussing bladder and bowel issues, the first topic usually is, is this related to MS? Is this caused by MS or not? We talk about what is the primary symptom. Is it urgency and frequency? The same, similar questions for bowel. Is it constipation? Is it diarrhea? Is it a combination of both?
Wanda: Pam was mentioning earlier about some of the triggers for the bowel, right, specific food. So we are interested to hear other triggers for your bowel and your bladder, both of them.
Kimberly D.: I call them water activities, meaning brushing your teeth, washing dishes, anything where the water is running.
Ann Marie J.: I also have temperatures. Let's say I run outside and it's cold. I feel a little bit of urge. Get in my car, throw the heat on, getting really relaxed, yeah. Soon as I open that door to go back outside in the cold, it's like got to go, got to go, got to go, got to go.
Pam S.: I thought I was the only one that had that temperature swing thing. If I don't go to the bathroom before I go outside, I know as soon as my foot hits the outdoors—it’s like aw, dang it.
Dr. Kaplan: Something that, you know, I talk to my patients about is what are some possible triggers, because even things like caffeine, but also alcohol, carbonated beverages, cigarette smoking. I think it's important to realize that everyone's triggers are so different, too.
Ann Marie J.: The biggest thing is to understand that you’re not alone. You know, you really, truly are not alone. So, all those feelings that you’re feeling, trust and believe, you know, I feel like that sometimes. So, don’t be afraid to talk about it, whether it be your healthcare professional or others.
Wanda: Thank you so much, all of you. That’s been a great, lively conversation. And we hope that anyone that is looking at us gets 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.
Find out if telehealth is right for your next MS appointment
From Above MS Contributors
Learn about MS and connect with others. Check out in-person and online events....more