Pelvic Floor Disorders
Women's Medicine Collaborative

Information and Treatment for Neurogenic Bladder

What Is a Neurogenic Bladder?

Neurogenic bladder is a term that refers to the changes that can occur due to any type of nerve-related injury or disease. The muscles and nerves of the urinary system work together to hold and release urine at the right times. Nerves carry messages between the bladder and the spinal cord and brain, which signal the muscles of the bladder to either tighten or relax. In neurogenic bladder, these nerves don’t work as they should.

What Causes Neurogenic Bladder?

Neurogenic bladder can be triggered by a number of disorders, including:

  • diabetes
  • infections
  • accidents that cause injury to the brain or spinal cord
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • multiple sclerosis
  • stroke
  • genetic nerve problems
  • heavy metal poisoning
  • birth defects that affect the spinal cord, such as spina bifida
  • brain or spinal cord tumors

It also may be an after effect of major pelvic surgery.

How Common Is Neurogenic Bladder?

Millions of Americans have neurogenic bladder.

What Are the Common Signs and Symptoms of Bladder Dysfunction?

These are the most common symptoms of neurogenic bladder:

  • urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • urinary retention
  • kidney stones
  • urinary incontinence (inability to control urine)
  • voiding only small amounts
  • urinary frequency and urgency
  • dribbling urine
  • the loss of feeling that the bladder is full
  • kidney damage in severe cases

Bladder dysfunction can seriously impact your daily life – your outlook, work, relationships, and activities. Incontinence may cause skin irritation or infections.

The symptoms of neurogenic bladder may mirror those of other conditions. Consult with a urologist or urogynecologist for a precise diagnosis.

How Is Bladder Dysfunction Diagnosed?

If your physician thinks you may have neurogenic bladder, he or she will review your health history, do a physical exam, and check your brain, spinal cord, and bladder. Other tests may include:

  • x-rays of the skull and spine
  • imaging tests of the bladder and ureters, the tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder
  • ultrasound. This imaging test uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of the organs on a computer screen.
  • cystoscopy, in which a thin, flexible tube and viewing device is threaded into the urethra to examine the urinary tract. It checks for structural changes or blockages, such as tumors or stones.
  • tests to measure how much the bladder can hold and check to see if it fully empties
  • bladder function test such as urodynamics

What Treatment Is Available for Neurogenic Bladder?

Treatment for neurogenic bladder depends on the cause. It is aimed at preventing kidney damage and may include:

  • medicines
  • emptying the bladder on a schedule using a catheter – a thin, flexible tube inserted into the urethra
  • preventive antibiotics to ward off infection in the kidneys or urinary tract
  • placing an artificial cuff around the neck of the bladder which can be inflated to hold urine and deflated to release it
  • surgery to remove stones or blockages
  • Botox injections into the bladder muscle
  • placement of an electrical device to stimulate or slow bladder activity
  • surgery

What Kind of Specialist Handles Patients Who Have a Neurogenic Bladder?

A urologist or urogynecologist can diagnose and treat neurogenic bladder.

The symptoms of neurogenic bladder may resemble those of other conditions and medical problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis. Your physician will consider your age, overall health, severity of symptoms, cause of the nerve damage, type of voiding dysfunction, and your specific needs in prescribing your treatment, which is often very individualized. The Women’s Medicine Collaborative has specialists who can help.

Learn more about treatment for pelvic floor disorders at Lifespan