Continence symptoms in MS – under reported and under-treated

13 February, 2014

Ms Louise Kurczycki

Bladder and bowel symptoms are well known to be a part of the spectrum of problems that can be experienced by people with MS, however, these symptoms are notoriously under reported and under-treated with significant impact on quality of life.

The symptoms, including incontinence, can have a profound effect on an individual’s self-esteem and have a particular impact on social activities and employment. If left untreated some urinary problems can also have serious long term health effects and may exacerbate relapses.

The National MS Needs Analysis Report commissioned by MS Research Australia in 2012 revealed that over 67% of Australians with MS experience bladder and bowel symptoms.

These symptoms are generally considered to be more prevalent in people with more advanced MS, however, Italian researchers have now published results of a small study showing that urinary symptoms can occur in people with the earliest signs of MS, known as clinically isolated syndrome (CIS), when only one neurological attack has been experienced.

The researchers studied twenty-eight consecutive patients presenting with CIS, using a panel of neurological and urological tests and a quality of life questionnaire. They found urinary symptoms in 57% of the patients. The presence of urinary symptoms was significantly associated with lower quality of life scores. The authors of this study conclude that these results further highlight the importance of early detection and treatment of urinary symptoms at very early stages of MS.

MS Research Australia is funding research that will directly address this problem for people with MS.

Ms Louise Kurczycki is a specialist continence nurse working at the Box Hill Hospital MS clinic and Monash University. With the support of an MS Research Australia grant awarded in 2013 Ms Kurczycki collaborated with MS nurses around Australia to refine and validate a screening tool that can be used by MS nurses and other health care providers to identify bladder and bowel problems in people with MS. She has now received further funding from MS Research Australia in the 2014 funding round to extend this work into a clinical trial to see if intervention initiated by a specialist continence nurse is more effective than the standard information and advice usually provided to people with MS.

This project holds great promise to identify and improve referral and treatment pathways for people with MS with continence symptoms, to reduce the possibility of long-term bladder and bowel dysfunction, and contribute to improved quality of life for people with MS.

In addition to Ms Kurczycki’s research, the MS International Federation are conducting a survey about bladder and bowel problems in MS. The results will help to inform and be published in their July issue of In Focus magazine.

To participate in this anonymous survey visit it will only take about five minutes.

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