Neurogenic bladder is abnormal bladder function caused by a nerve problem. The bladder may empty too often or at the wrong time (incontinence) or the bladder may be unable to completely empty the urine (urinary retention). In this case, urine may leak out of the overfilled bladder.
Contact your doctor if you think you may have this condition. The sooner it is treated, the lower the chance of developing other serious conditions, such as a
urinary tract infection.
Bladder With Nerves, Female
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Neurogenic bladder is caused by problems with the nerves carrying messages between the bladder and the brain. The nerve problems may be caused by:
- Spinal cord injury
- Tumors of the brain
or spinal cord in the pelvic area
- Infection of the brain or spinal cord
Medical conditions affecting the nerves, such as:
Factors that increase your chance of developing neurogenic bladder include:
- Nerve or spinal cord conditions present since birth (such as
spina bifida or spinal cord tumor)
Symptoms of neurogenic bladder may include:
- Urinary incontinence
- Dribbling urine stream
- Straining during urination
- Inability to urinate (urinary retention)
- Overflow of urine from a full bladder
- Painful urination
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You may be asked to keep a diary of how often you empty your bladder and other urinary habits. If your doctor thinks that your symptoms may be caused by a nerve problem, you may have some of the tests below. You may also be referred to an urologist for further evaluation and treatment.
Tests may include the following:
- Blood tests
- Bladder function tests
Imaging tests of the kidneys, ureters, and bladder, such as:
- MRI scan
Treatment focuses on relieving symptoms by emptying your bladder regularly.
Treatment options include:
- Bladder training—setting a regular schedule to empty your bladder and drinking less fluid
- Exercises to strengthen muscles around the bladder that help control urine flow
- Painless electrical stimulation to help the function of bladder muscles
A thin tube, called a catheter, can be inserted to empty the bladder. You can learn to do this yourself or a trained healthcare professional may do it for you.
Your doctor may recommend anticholinergic drugs (antimuscarinics) or botulinum toxin injections to help control symptoms.
Surgery may be an option for severe cases when all other treatments fail. Surgical procedures include:
- Removing part of the muscle that holds the bladder closed—This allows urine to flow out into a collection tube attached to the penis (for men only).
- Inserting a tube into an opening in the abdomen—This allows urine to flow out into a collection bag.
- Using tissue from the bowel to make the bladder larger
- Replacing the bladder with a pouch made from sections of the bowel or other tissue
- Inserting a small tube-like device, called a stent, into the bladder neck to allow urine to flow out.
While most cases of neurogenic bladder cannot be prevented, people with diabetes may be able to delay or avoid the problem by carefully controlling their blood sugar levels over the long-term. Also, wearing seat belts and avoiding activities that increase the risk of spinal cord injuries will prevent neurogenic bladder from this cause.
Morantz CA. ACOG guidelines on urinary incontinence in women.
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Nerve disease and bladder control. National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse website. Available at:
. Updated June 29, 2012. Accessed October 18, 2012.
Neurogenic bladder. Urology Care Foundation website. Available at:
. Updated January 2011. Accessed October 18, 2012.
Scientific Committee of the First International Consultation on Incontinence. Assessment and treatment of urinary incontinence.
7/28/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Mangera A, Apostolidis A, et al. An updated systematic review and statistical comparison of standardised mean outcomes for the use of botulinum toxin in the management of lower urinary tract disorders. Eur Urol. 2014;65(5):981-990.
Last reviewed December 2013 by Adrienne Carmack, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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