As discussed throughout The Source, urinary incontinence for many of us is associated with stage-of-life events, such as motherhood and aging. But bladder leaks also can be caused or exacerbated by serious medical conditions—especially those that are neurological in nature.
The nerve damage caused by MS impacts the way our bodies interpret signals between the brain and bladder. Specific bladder muscles—such as those responsible both for storing urine and for indicating when the bladder is full—can get out of sync, causing leaks or often complete, involuntary emptying.
In what seems like the opposite of bladder leakage, Parkinson’s can make it difficult for muscles in the urethra to relax. It can become difficult to begin urinating, or there may be a strong urge to go even when the bladder is empty. This gets compounded when the bladder is full and the brain signals the bladder to empty involuntarily.
When a stroke impacts the areas of the brain responsible for bladder sensation and control, a person will often pee without realizing it. This is known as reflex incontinence, which can continue after stroke recovery if those nerves have been seriously damaged. This causes increased and sudden urges, bladder leakage and, in some cases, the inability to urinate.
Cancers affecting the brain and spinal cord can cause serious damage to nerves controlling the bladder as well as the muscles of the pelvic floor, resulting in sudden incontinence. Any unexplained, unexpected incontinence can be an indication of a more critical medical condition. Always talk to your doctor as soon as possible if you have a sudden episode of incontinence.
When someone is unable to process the urge to go in time to make it to the bathroom, accidents can happen. In some cases, people forget the bathroom location or even how to perform the task of relieving themselves.
If an episode of bladder leakage comes as a complete surprise—and you’re not in any of the typical life stages such as pregnancy, postpartum, perimenopause or menopause—having a conversation about it with your doctor should be an immediate priority.
And if you are seeing a pelvic physical therapist to help fight bladder leaks, make sure they know if you have any medical conditions that might contribute to your incontinence.
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