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Finding treatments to manage bladder symptoms in MS

Ben Atkinson

There are many established ways to manage bladder problems, including physiotherapy, incontinence products and watching what you drink.

But we know for many people bladder problems are still one of the most challenging symptoms of MS. Which is why we're continuing to fund research to find new ways to manage it better.

Sarah Bittlestone is a member of our research network and lives with MS. She said: ‘It’s one of those subjects that still isn’t talked about, and they don’t necessarily tell you at diagnosis. For years, when asked if my bladder and bowels were ok, I always said “Yes, fine” because they were normal for me. I didn’t realise that this was far from normal for everyone else!’

‘Intermittent Self Catheterisation (ISC) changed my life and made it much more comfortable, but the recurring urine infections and frequent antibiotics haven’t completely resolved and remain worrying.’

New ways to prevent bladder infections

Dr Jenny Rohn at University College London is looking at resolving this issue. The team are looking at a new way of delivering antibiotics straight into the bladder to try and reduce the risk of side effects and make treatment more effective.

Using a special technique called 'micro-jetting’, they have the potential to deliver antibiotics in the form of microcapsules, directly to the bladder without affecting the rest of the body. No side effects! Because the microcapsules and antibiotics are already available, we hope this will speed up the process to get this technique into clinical trials.

Showing the importance of tracking symptoms

We’ve also funded research by Dr Nikki Cotterill in North Bristol NHS Trust, on improving bladder and bowel dysfunction in people with MS.

Her team have highlighted the importance of documenting symptoms and how facilitating group self-led pelvic floor exercises may be beneficial for symptom management.

Developing drug treatments for bladder problems

A number of drugs can be used to treat an overactive bladder and make bladder contractions less unpredictable.

Many medications belong to the same family called anticholinergic drugs. These drugs reduce the build-up of a substance called acetylcholine in the brain, which is responsible for neurones communicating with each other for specific bodily functions. The reduction of acetylcholine can help to prevent involuntary muscle contractions in the bladder and reduce the frequency of urination.

We've funded research into Botox injections, which are highly effective at reducing both the frequency and urgency to urinate. The effects are quite long lasting, but unfortunately are not permanent. As treatment with Botox is carried out by an urologist, you will need a referral from your GP.

Find out more about managing bladder problems

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