The Effects of Parkinson's Disease on the Bladder and 7 Ways to Address It

Parkinson's disease primarily affects the muscular system, causing involuntary muscle contractions and twitches and eventually the inability to control muscles. The disease also affects the automatic nervous system, which controls bodily functions, including:

  • Heart rate

  • Blood pressure

  • Gastrointestinal functions

  • Sweating

  • Sexual functions

  • Urinary control

This has severe consequences on every structure in the body, including the ability to voluntary control the bladder. While bowel dysfunction can occur early or before obvious symptoms of Parkinson's emerge, urinary incontinence typically happens later in the progression of the disease.

Neurogenic bladder is the term used to describe a bladder that does not properly communicate with the spinal cord. A neurogenic bladder may feel like it is full when it's empty, and may have difficulty in sending the proper signals that a full bladder needs to be emptied. Both an overactive bladder and an underactive bladder can lead to embarrassing accidents that degrade the quality of life of those living with Parkinson's disease (PD).

Helping Someone With PD-Related Incontinence

While not everyone with PD will have related bladder issues, recent studies show that up to 40% of people will. Only about 15% of individuals will have severe Parkinson's-related incontinence. Whether or not someone is dealing with severe incontinence, many steps can be taken to improve the quality of life for those with bladder issues.

Learning more about urinary incontinence and PD is the first step to helping someone struggling with both. With research, you can learn the current treatments for frequent urination and suggestions to improve incontinence and heighten the quality of life. Understanding the problem can help everyone, including you, so simply being an advocate is a great place to start.

7 Ways To Improve Quality of Life For Those Living With PD-Related Incontinence

Urinary incontinence can be overwhelming. There are many steps that can be taken to address it, with several presented below.

woman doctor smiling

1. Visit A Doctor

This one might seem obvious, but many times we can try to wait until a regular checkup or a more important issue arises to mention bladder dysfunction to the doctor. While it may seem like a common issue, the fact remains that quality of life is a measure of physical wellness and can decline rapidly if one area, such as urinary function, is ignored for too long. There may be medicinal or surgical solutions to Parkinson's-related incontinence, and your healthcare team will be able to provide alternative solutions such as lifestyle changes that could help. 

pelvic floor exercises

2. Pelvic Floor Exercises

Have you ever heard of Kegels? This is an exercise where you sit and try to squeeze the muscles of the pelvis like you're trying to stop yourself from peeing. Pelvic floor exercises are commonly prescribed as a measure to ease incontinence symptoms. It’s a simple workout that can be done anywhere, with helpful how-to guides online or ask a healthcare provider for more information. 


bathroom with toilet

3. Bladder Training

By setting and keeping to a strict routine, it is possible to train the bladder to empty at certain times and ensuring that you're in the bathroom when it's time to go. This strategy is undertaken by home care and community healthcare workers to help prevent accidents. Bladder training is an easy and often reliable solution.

medication

4. Medication

There are a wealth of medications available for those suffering from PD-related incontinence, and new research is undergone every year to find even better treatments. A urologist can help figure out the best medications for individual situations, depending on whether the problem is with an overactive or underactive bladder.

NorthShore pads and pull on underwear

5. Pads and Plugs for Incontinence

There are a variety of products on the market to help those dealing with incontinence. Protective underwear is available that helps absorb any leakage or accidents, and modern versions are built to be comfortable and not bulky. If a woman wants to try to stop leakage at the source, she can use a bladder support device that works like a tampon, inserted into the vagina, called an incontinence plug. It may not be useful for those with severe cases of incontinence.

male doctor with chart

6. Surgery

It may be necessary to undergo a surgical procedure to lessen incontinence symptoms with severe cases of incontinence so speaking with a healthcare provider is always recommended. A urologist will be able to explain options, but there are a few different types of procedures researched recently, including deep-brain stimulation. This is a procedure where fine wires are inserted into the brain, and signals are sent that encourage correct communication between the bladder and the spinal cord. 

woman drinking water

7. Stay Hydrated

It's important not to try to quell the symptoms of PD-related incontinence by lowering a person's fluid intake. One of the symptoms of Parkinson's disease is involuntary muscle contractions, including the muscles of the bladder. This can lead to a person feeling like they need to urinate despite having an empty bladder. It's important to remember that dehydration can lead to a cascade effect on already present symptoms, causing a situation to worsen quickly.

Parkinson's-related incontinence can be a challenging issue to deal with. Fortunately, there are countless possible solutions to help you or someone you care for. With information about current research and the latest incontinence relief products, it is possible to maintain a high quality of life despite having PD-related incontinence.

Visit the NorthShore Blog to find more helpful articles about incontinence and living life to the fullest.

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