Neurogenic bladder is abnormal bladder function caused by a nerve or brain 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 and back up into the kidney.
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,
hydronephrosis, or kidney damage.
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 or the brain itself. The nerve problems may be caused by: Spinal cord injuryTumors
of the brain
or spinal cord in the pelvic area
Infection of the brain or spinal cord
Medical conditions affecting the brain or nerves, such as:
Spina bifidaDiabetesStrokeMultiple sclerosisCerebral palsy
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 tumorDiabetesStrokeOther causes of brain injury such as infection or trauma
Symptoms of neurogenic bladder may include: Urinary incontinenceDribbling urine streamStraining during urinationInability to urinate (urinary retention)Overflow of urine from a full bladderPainful urinationRecurring urinary tract infections
You will be asked 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.
Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with: UrinalysisBlood tests
Images may be taken of your kidneys, ureters, and bladder. This can be done with: X-raysUltrasoundCT scanMRI scan
Other tests may be done, including: Bladder function testsUrodynamics
Treatment focuses on relieving symptoms by emptying your bladder regularly.
Treatment options include:
Bladder training—setting a regular schedule to empty your bladderExercises to strengthen muscles around the bladder that help control urine flowPainless 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
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 largerReplacing the bladder with a pouch made from sections of the bowel or other tissueInserting 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:
http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/nervedisease/index.htm. Updated June 29, 2012. Accessed November 18, 2015.
Neurogenic bladder. Clevland Clinic website. Available at: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases_conditions/hic-neurogenic-bladder. Updated May 10, 2016. Accessed August 15, 2016.
Neurogenic bladder. Johns Hopkins website. Available at: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/kidney_and_urinary_system_disorders/neurogenic_bladder_85,p01487/. Accessed August 15, 2016.
Neurogenic bladder. Urology Care Foundation website. Available at:
http://www.urologyhealth.org/urology/index.cfm?article=9. Accessed August 15, 2016.
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.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T900602/Neurogenic-bladder: 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 August 2016 by Michael Woods, 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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