For patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), bladder infection is a serious health issue that should be reported to a doctor and treated. Also known as a urinary tract infection or cystitis, a bladder infection can be caused by several symptoms and conditions related to MS, such as untreated urinary retention or other bladder dysfunctions. It is important to have a bladder infection diagnosed and treated because an untreated infection in the urinary tract can cause a chain reaction of increased spasticity and cognitive (thinking) impairment, which can lead to a relapse.
In advanced cases of multiple sclerosis, an untreated urinary tract infection can even lead to sepsis — a dangerous potentially life-threatening infection that attacks the entire body.
Signs of Bladder Infection in MS
Signs of a urinary tract infection in an MS patient can include fatigue or a wide range of bladder symptoms associated with ongoing bladder dysfunction such as urinary incontinence, which is common with MS. Other symptoms include a frequent urge to urinate; a painful, burning sensation while urinating; pain in the bladder or abdomen; and milky or cloudy looking urine accompanied by a foul smell.
Urinary tract infections are quite common in people with MS. One study indicated that 1 in 10 patients will have a bladder infection at some point. Another study suggests that the frequency of infections may be higher because some patients who were found to be infected were asymptomatic and went previously undiagnosed. Patients found to have urinary tract infections while experiencing exacerbations need to be treated differently for the infection compared to patients in remission, but in all cases the infection needs to be addressed clinically as soon as possible.
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