Your bladder is a hollow organ located in your pelvis or lower abdomen. One of the main jobs of your bladder is to store urine (pee). The other is to remove urine from your body in response to signals from your spinal cord and brain.
Neurogenic bladder is the term for what happens when neurological (nervous system) conditions affect the way your bladder works. There are two major types of bladder control problems linked to neurogenic bladder. Depending on the nerves involved and the nature of the damage, your bladder becomes either overactive (spastic or hyper-reflexive) or underactive (flaccid or hypotonic).
Neurogenic bladder dysfunction is very common among people with spinal cord injuries, affecting more than 90% of them. About 95% of people with spina bifida have neurogenic bladder dysfunction. The condition also affects 50% to 80% of people who have multiple sclerosis. Neurogenic bladder affects people with stroke and Parkinson’s disease and many other types of nervous system conditions. Conditions that damage nerves like advanced diabetes can also cause neurogenic bladder.
Neurogenic bladder can be congenital (present at birth). Birth defects that can cause neurogenic bladder include:
Medical conditions that involve the nervous system can cause neurogenic bladder. Common causes include:
Other conditions include:
The most common symptom of neurogenic bladder is being unable to control urination. Other neurogenic bladder symptoms include:
If your healthcare provider suspects neurogenic bladder, they’ll do an exam and probably order several tests of the nervous system and the bladder. Tests may include:
There is no cure for neurogenic bladder. However, symptoms of neurogenic bladder can be managed.
Your healthcare provider will work with you to decide on a treatment plan that is appropriate for what is causing neurogenic bladder. Some neurogenic bladder treatment options include:
Absorbent undergarments, pads, panty shields, panty liners and adult diapers can help prevent wetness and odors while protecting skin and clothing. Bed pads can protect sheets and mattresses.
People who have neurogenic bladder are at higher risk for other urological problems, including repeated infections, kidney damage, vesicoureteral reflux and stones that form in the urinary tract.
People with bladder control conditions such as neurogenic bladder may experience quality of life issues. It’s important to recognize these issues and get help with them.
Most cases of neurogenic bladder can’t be prevented.
If you have any type of nervous system disorder, chances are that your healthcare provider will already know to address the issue of neurogenic bladder. Still, it’s important to be honest with your provider about the issues you face. Make sure you speak to your provider if you have new or worsening concerns, including things that might indicate infection like pain or fever.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Neurogenic bladder can be managed, even though it can’t be treated. Methods for dealing with neurogenic bladder dysfunction are being refined. You can help by following the suggestions that you get from your healthcare provider about lifestyle changes and nutritional choices. Maintaining a healthy weight can help with urinary incontinence.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/15/2022.