The Link Between Diabetes And Neurogenic Bladder

diabetes and neurogenic bladder

Diabetes is a growing epidemic in our nation. More than 29 million Americans currently suffer from diabetes, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that by 2050, as many as 1 out of every 3 adults in the US could have the condition.

Many of us have heard the common complications associated with diabetes: heart disease and stroke, eye problems, including blindness, kidney disease and amputations due to damaged blood vessels and nerves.  But did you know that diabetes can also lead to neurogenic bladder?

Neurogenic bladder is a condition that occurs when nerve damage has occurred, preventing the bladder from emptying properly. Symptoms can include a frequent and strong urge to urinate (but in small amounts), difficulty emptying the bladder, incontinence, and urinary retention. Many people associate neurogenic bladder with conditions such as spinal cord injuries, MS, Alzheimer’s Disease, or Parkinson’s Disease. But neurogenic bladder can happen in people with diabetes too, as a result of diabetic neuropathy, which causes the bladder to lose the ability to sense when it is full.

The good news is that there are treatment options available for neurogenic bladder. Lifestyle changes, such as scheduled voiding, dietary changes, and keeping a bladder diary are a helpful start and can make a big difference.  Several drugs and procedures can help with symptoms of overactive bladder, and for those who have difficulty urinating, catheters can be a big help as well. Finally, surgery options are available. 

Of course, if you are pre-diabetic, the best course of treatment is prevention. Keeping your A1C levels in check with proper diet and exercise is essential in ensuring that you maintain a healthy weight.  Eating healthy foods at moderate portions, and getting in 30 minutes of physical activity can delay and in some cases prevent the disease.

If you are concerned about diabetes, talk with your doctor. He or she will help you assess your risk factors, and start you on a plan to combat this very prevalent disease.

Ask The Expert: What's The Best Way To Prevent UTI's When You Have A Neurogenic Bladder?

UTI's and neurogenic bladder

Question:  What’s the best way to prevent UTI’s when you have a neurogenic bladder?

Answer:  Unfortunately, Urinary Tract Infections are common in patients with neurogenic bladder. Patients with neurogenic bladder often have a harder time completely emptying their bladder. They also are often unable to sense that the bladder is full, resulting in them holding urine for too long.  Some patients also self catheterize, or use indwelling catheters, which can present complications leading to a UTI.

Of course, the best treatment of a UTI is prevention. 

Below are 2 simple steps that patients living with neurogenic bladders can take to avoid bladder infections.

1. Keep things clean.

It stands to reason that keeping yourself, and any equipment used to assist with voiding, hygienic can help keep bacteria at bay. Be sure to properly clean your body, and any external catheters after each use. Always wash hands before and after self-catheterizing.  During a short-term infection, change indwelling catheters and be sure that the bladder fully empties to prevent urine from remaining in the bladder for too long.

2. Develop a voiding schedule.

While many things are considered when deciding when to catheterize, including patient and caregiver schedules and urine production, steps should be taken to ensure that the bladder is emptied frequently to prevent infections. Develop a schedule that works for you and stick to it.

UTI’s can cause many complications for people with Neurogenic Bladder, including decreased quality of life and other serious health concerns. If you are experiencing any common signs of a UTI, call your doctor.

Common signs of a UTI:

  • Fever
  • Urinary incontinence/leaking around the catheter
  • Cloudy urine
  • Spasticity
  • Back pain
  • Bladder pain
  • Lethargy
  • Painful or difficult urination
  • Sudden, high blood pressure

What Is Neurogenic Bladder?

What Is Neurogenic Bladder?

Having a neurological condition presents many challenges, but one that few people likely think about until they are dealing with it is how the condition may affect your ability to use the restroom. Like many organs, the bladder is controlled by nerves that connect to your brain and spinal cord. When these functions are challenged due to a neurological condition, it can cause a person to have a neurogenic bladder.

What is Neurogenic Bladder?

Neurogenic bladder happens when there is a lack of bladder control due to a brain, spinal cord or nerve problem. Typically, the bladder has two functions – storing urine, and removing it from the body. These functions are controlled by communication in the spinal cord and brain. When a person’s nerves, brain or spinal cord become injured, the way they communicate with the bladder can become compromised.

There are two types of neurogenic bladder: the bladder can become overactive (spastic or hyper-reflexive), or under-active (flaccid or hypotonic).

With an overactive bladder, patients experience strong and frequent urges to use the bathroom, and sometimes have trouble making it in time, resulting in urinary incontinence.

In an under-active bladder, the sphincter muscles may not work correctly and may stay tight when you are trying to empty your bladder, resulting in urinary retention (producing only a small amount of urine) or obstructive bladder (when you are unable to empty your bladder at all). In either case, treatment is available.

What Causes Neurogenic Bladder?

Neurogenic bladder can be caused by a number of conditions. Some children are born with neurogenic bladder. Children born with spina bifida (when the fetus’ spine does not completely develop during the first month of pregnancy), sacral agenesis (when lower parts of the spine are missing), or cerebral palsy (a disorder that weakens a person’s ability to control body movement and posture) all may suffer from neurogenic bladder due to their conditions. Other medical conditions that may cause neurogenic bladder are Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), spinal cord injury, stroke, or central nervous system tumors.

What Are The Treatment Options For Neurogenic Bladder?

Luckily, there are many treatment options for neurogenic bladder. Treatments vary depending on whether you have overactive bladder or urinary retention. To learn about treatments for these conditions, click through the links below.

Treatments for Overactive Bladder

Treatments for Urinary Retention

A neurogenic bladder doesn’t have to limit your life. Don’t be afraid to explore your options and find a treatment that works for you.

Do you have a neurogenic bladder? Tell us about your experience in the comments below – we’d love to hear about treatment options that have worked for you!