The cause and management of bladder, sexual and bowel symptoms in multiple sclerosis

Baillieres Clin Neurol. 1997 Oct;6(3):447-66.


Neurological control of bladder, bowel and sexual function depends on intact innervation between cerebral controlling centres and the conus of the cord. It is probably the spinal cord disease in multiple sclerosis (MS) which is the main cause of the pelvic organ dysfunctions that occur. Essential to bladder management is understanding to what extent the patient has incomplete emptying while complaining predominantly of symptoms of bladder overactivity. Anticholinergic medication can be highly effective for treatment of detrusor hyperreflexia but if incomplete emptying is also part of the problem intermittent catheterization or some other means of improving emptying will be necessary. Although there is an increasing range of treatments available for erectile failure there is still little that can be done to help women with sexual dysfunction. However, patients of both sexes are likely to welcome the opportunity to discuss their problem. The prevalence of bowel dysfunction is higher in patients with MS than in the general population and there are a number of possible pathophysiological mechanisms for both the constipation and the faecal incontinence that occur. However, there are as yet few specific effective treatments.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Diseases / etiology*
  • Intestinal Diseases / therapy
  • Male
  • Multiple Sclerosis / complications*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / physiopathology
  • Multiple Sclerosis / therapy
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / etiology*
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / therapy
  • Urinary Bladder Diseases / etiology*
  • Urinary Bladder Diseases / therapy