Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are far more frequent in people with multiple sclerosis (MS) than the general public. When someone with MS gets a UTI, it is harder to treat, and it can be life-threatening. So, what's the link between multiple sclerosis and UTIs, treatment, and prevention?
Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is a long-lasting disease that affects the central nervous system, brain, and spinal cord. MS causes the immune system to attack and damage the protective sheath (myelin) that surrounds nerve cells. This nerve damage causes problems with vision, balance, muscle control, and other basic body functions, such as the bladder.
90 percent of people with MS experience problems with bladder function. Oftentimes, bladder issues develop because MS damages the nerves that signal bladder contraction. Interruptions with these signals can lead to:
Bladder emptying dysfunctions (as stated above) are the link between multiple sclerosis and UTIs. When you have issues emptying your bladder completely, this means urine sits in your bladder for longer than it should. Leftover urine allows harmful bacteria to multiply in your bladder, which leads to a urinary tract infection. While this article primarily focuses on the bladder, this overpopulation of harmful bacteria can occur anywhere in the urinary tract: urethra, ureters, bladder, or kidneys.
UTIs are likely to happen if you do not seek treatment for bladder emptying dysfunction. UTI symptoms include:
UTIs are diagnosed by your healthcare provider with a urinalysis or urine culture. Frustratingly, if you have MS, a UTI might fly under the radar because the common symptoms (urinary frequency, discomfort, and urinating in small amounts) are mistaken for bladder dysfunction, a common side effect of MS. If a UTI is taking place, a person with MS may experience a pseudoexacerbation, which is a worsening of MS symptoms. This includes severe fatigue, fever, a general feeling of illness, or mental changes. Because UTIs present themselves atypically in people with MS, they can be hard to detect. MS patients with recurring UTIs should take note of their symptoms that turned out to be a UTI.
The only way to cure a UTI is through a 4-10 day course of antibiotics from your healthcare provider.
Living with multiple sclerosis is a challenge because the side effects impact your work, ability to exercise, social life, and intimacy. If you need extra support, explorethis compilation of MS support groups— they'll point you in the direction of health providers and people to connect with. If you haven’t done so already, support groups on Facebook also help you get in touch with people who also have MS, you’re not alone. Even if you are doing everything in your power to keep on top your urinary health, you might need extra help or peace of mind, that’s where Uqora comes in.