Patient Care

Neurogenic Bladder: Common Causes

Problems with signals from the nervous system to the bladder cause neurogenic bladder.

Neurogenic bladder happens when the nerves that send signals to the bladder are damaged, causing problems with controlling the bladder.

The bladder is a hollow organ in the lower abdomen. It has flexible walls that can stretch to hold urine. The muscles can squeeze to send urine out of the body. When there is a problem with the bladder, like neurogenic bladder, it can affect your ability to control urination.

Neurogenic bladder has a few common causes: birth defects, injury, stroke, diabetes, infections, genetic nerve problems, brain and spinal cord tumors.

It can be frustrating to have trouble controlling urination because of neurogenic bladder. Fortunately, there are effective treatment options. Washington University urologists are specialists in treating neurogenic bladder.

What causes neurogenic bladder?

Neurogenic bladder is very common. Millions of people experience symptoms, such as leaking, frequent urination or difficulty urinating, every year. People with neurogenic bladder can be of any age, and both children and adults deal with neurogenic bladder. Neurogenic bladder can be caused by genetic nerve problems, direct nerve damage and other medical conditions.

Genetic Nerve Problems

Most patients with neurogenic bladder have nerve damage as a result of another condition. This includes people with genetic nerve problems, multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease and spina bifida.

  • Genetic nerve problems: Certain disorders are regulated by genetics, which on many levels program the form and function of the body. If someone inherits certain genes that disrupt the control of the bladder, they may experience neurogenic bladder.
  • Birth defects: Physiological conditions that are present at birth may cause neurogenic bladder from infancy. Spina bifida is one such defect that affects the spine and therefore changes the function of nerves that control the bladder.

Direct Nerve Damage

People who have had a stroke, spinal cord injury, major pelvic surgery, as well as brain or spinal tumors can also cause neurogenic bladder due to direct damage to the nerves.

  • Stroke: Strokes are ailments that involve interruptions to blood flow to the brain, causing damage. Brain injury following a stroke can change the function of nerves which are directed by brain activity. If these nerves control the bladder, neurogenic bladder can occur.
  • Injury: Like a stroke, injury that directly affects either the brain or nerves can also impact their functionality and therefore trigger neurogenic bladder. A car accident, for example, may injure the spine and cause issues with bladder control.
  • Brain or spinal cord tumors: Tumors that start in the brain or spinal cord are likely to change the ability of these organs to function properly. If these tumors are left untreated, a person may have problems with bladder function.

Medical Conditions

Diabetes and certain infections may also result in neurogenic bladder.

  • Diabetes: Dysfunction in urination is a problem associated with diabetes, and bladder problems can often be more severe in people with diabetes. This may start because diabetes can cause selective damage to nerves that specifically direct urination.
  • Infections: Certain infectious diseases can result in damage to the nerves. Much like other injuries or illnesses, these too can result in neurogenic bladder.  

Neurogenic Bladder Treatment with Washington University Urology

Neurogenic bladder treatment focuses on making it easier for you to urinate regularly. Problems with urination can also affect the kidneys. Treating neurogenic bladder also aims to prevent kidney damage.

Neurogenic bladder is more common than some people may think, and there are treatments that can help. Treatments may include lifestyle changes, medical treatment and surgery. Which treatment is right for each person depends on factors including:

  • Age
  • Overall health and medical history
  • The cause of the nerve damage
  • Type and severity of symptoms
  • Tolerance for certain drugs, procedures or therapies

At Washington University Urology, our specialists are leading experts in the causes and management of neurogenic bladder. Washington University urologists offer comprehensive treatment for neurogenic bladder. This means your specialist will help you understand all your treatment options, and which may be best for you.

Trouble with urinating can be difficult to discuss. Some people may feel embarrassed or isolated by their condition, but Washington University urologists are here to help.

To make an appointment with a Washington University urologist, please call 314-862-8200 or fill out the online appointment form.