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Diabetes and Bladder Problems: Neurogenic Bladder

Less common, but more severe, bladder problems associated with diabetes include:
 
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Complete failure to empty (retention).
     
These symptoms can be caused by neurogenic bladder. Some evidence indicates that this problem occurs in both men and women with diabetes at earlier ages than in those without diabetes.
 
In neurogenic bladder, damage to the nerves that go to your bladder can cause it to release urine when you do not intend to urinate, resulting in leakage. Or, damage to nerves may prevent your bladder from releasing urine properly and it may be forced back into the kidneys, causing kidney damage or urinary tract infections.
 
Neurogenic bladder can be caused by:
 
  • Diabetes or other diseases
  • Accidents that damage the nerves
  • Infections.
     
Symptoms of neurogenic bladder include:
 
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Loss of the urge to urinate when the bladder is full
  • Leakage of urine
  • Inability to empty the bladder.
     
To diagnose a neurogenic bladder, your doctor will check both your nervous system (your brain and the nerves of the bladder) and the bladder itself. Tests may include x-rays and an evaluation of bladder function (urodynamics).
 
Treatment for neurogenic bladder depends on the specific problem and its cause. If the main problem is retention of urine in the bladder, treatment may involve medication to promote better bladder emptying and behavioral changes to promote more efficient urination, called timed urination. Occasionally, people may need to periodically insert a thin tube called a catheter through the urethra into the bladder to drain the urine. Learning how to tell when the bladder is full and how to massage the lower abdomen to fully empty the bladder can help as well. If urinary leakage is the main problem, medications or surgery can help.
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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