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MS and incontinence

What's Important Now

Waking up in the morning and facing the world brings a sense of wonder. Not in the sense of awe, just in wondering how MS will affect me today.

Is it a good day or a bad day? What will it bring?

Like most people, I guess, one of the first things to do is get out of bed and use the bathroom. Of course, among the symptoms that can be experienced with MS is an increased frequency in the need to urinate.

So I quickly evaluate how urgent is my need to relieve my bladder. Realistically, will I be able to reach the bathroom in time?

If I think I can and, once sitting up, if that confidence continues, it is time to go for it. I have to say, most times that confidence is not misplaced. But if I believe my need is too urgent or I am too unsteady to make it, I resort to using the urine bottle I keep by the bed to cope with such a situation.

Actually, not so long ago, I used to wake up at least twice during the night for the same purpose. That was certainly the case when I lived in the UK, and again when I first moved Spain. But now, nearly nine months later, life is easier in that respect. I can now sleep through the night, and that means I am more rested in the morning.

Being more rested at night means that I am better equipped when that dreaded fatigue hits, as is often the case.

Waterworks is one way MS affects me

Turning back to the “waterworks,” the change is also affecting my daytime life. My need to use the bathroom every two hours or so is diminishing; today, I can usually go for four hours or even longer. And the sense of urgency, while undoubtedly still having an effect, seems to be lessening.

At one time, things were so bad that I was wearing an incontinence pad all the time, even at home. Nowadays, I only wear one when I go out – to avoid any unfortunate embarrassment. However, the pads normally get removed without being used.

The other day, Lisa and I went out for a meal with another couple. The restaurant was a little drive away and, even though I didn’t use the bathroom before we left and we had drinks with the meal, I didn’t feel the urge again for some time. Yes, despite the drinks, I didn’t use a bathroom for about five hours. I wasn’t wearing a pad, either!

So what has changed to cause this improvement? Not a lot, really.

First, we moved from the mainly grey skies and rain of the U.K. to the almost constant sunshine we enjoy in the south of Spain, and with sunshine comes higher temperatures. Secondly, in Britain, I was prescribed 2.5 mg of a medication called oxybutynin to be taken twice a day. Here, my prescription has not changed but the smallest tablet available is 5 mg.

Now, I know I am supposed to break the tablet in two, taking half in the morning and half at night, but I don’t. Even though the tablet has a clear line to help split it, I don’t do so. Instead, I take one 5 mg tablet in the evening and that is it.

Could either of those changes, or the combination of them, be causing the improvement I’m experiencing? I have no idea, but long may it continue.


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Multiple Sclerosis. 

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Ian Franks is Managing Editor of the Columns division of BioNews Services. He has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media; during which he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain and uses his skills to write his own flourishing specialist MS, Health & Disability blog at Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.
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  1. Cynthia says:

    The Oxy may well be the reason. The reason they’d have you take 2.5 mg .vs. the 5 mg dose may be based on other meds you are taking. The idea is to not stress liver or kidneys and/or mitigate any potential interactions with other meds.

    Spastic bladder is different than the opposite.

    It’s never wise to alter dosing without contacting your care provider first. You may see benefits now and pay a differing health price for that change later such as a catheter which is just horrible having a wee wee bag with you everywhere you travel.

    Care provider might go, “Sure. Go ahead. We’ll just monitor things a bit closer over the next 6 months – year”

  2. Kym says:

    I also take oxybutynin 5mg tab before bed every night. It stopped the urgency. I have fallen, and broken bones in the past hurrying to the bathroom. I still get up at night to go, but I don’t have to rush. No falling, and no peeling on the floor trying to get to the bathroom.

    • LaShona Hickman says:

      Hi..Just last week I fell getting up to go in urgency..maybe midnite or so. Usually 3-4 times a night. So I tripped over some boxes of coupons that I had by the door. I landed face first, slamming my nose on my bedside table. I do think it’s fractured. Have a Serious Bruise and also one on my Leg. Its Definitely Difficult trying to sleep at night.

  3. Lori Smith says:

    My fiancee has MS, and had urinary urgency and frequency. His doctor prescribed him Detrol, which seems to help a little bit. I have noticed a difference, but he still wears a brief especially when we are going somewhere.

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