Did you know? 80 percent of MS patients experience some bladder issues. Get the answers to sensitive questions about dealing with MS symptoms.
It's common for people with MS to have questionsnot just about their diagnosis, but also about living with the disease and the symptoms it causes. Here, we asked experts for answers to some sensitive MS questions about pregnancy, smoking, urine leakage, and erectile dysfunction.
MS Question 1: Urine Leakage
I occasionally leak urine when I’m sleeping at night. What can I do about it?
Ask your doctor for a referral to a urologist who’s familiar with MS. The urologist will give you a full evaluation, including a physical exam and tests for bladder function. Even though MS-related lesions may be delaying nerve signals to the bladder, “you can tackle these issues the same way anyone would,” says Jai S. Perumal, M.D., a neurologist at the Judith Jaffe Multiple Sclerosis Center at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. Your doctor may start you on a program of exercises called Kegels to strengthen the muscles around your urethra and have you track how often you urinate, among other strategies.
MS Question 2: Smoking Dangers
Can smoking aggravate my MS symptoms?
Yes. People with MS who smoke (or used to smoke) have 17 percent more brain lesions than nonsmokers, according to a study published in the journal Neurology. “Smoking can also make your symptoms worse as an immediate effect,” says Dr. Perumal. For instance, a smoker with MS may experience gait or walking problems right after finishing a cigarette. And, of course, when you smoke you increase your chances of a variety of other health problems, such as heart disease and lung cancer.
MS Question 3: Pregnancy
Is it safe for me to get pregnant if I have MS?
It seems that women with multiple sclerosis are no more likely to experience complications during child-birth, deliver prematurely or have a baby with a low birth weight than women without the disease, according to a new study published in the journal Annals of Neurology. But it’s wise to try to be at your optimal weight when entering pregnancy and not to overgain throughout. As study co-author Helen Tremlett, Ph.D., associate professor of neurology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, notes, “Women with MS were more likely to be overweight at the time of conception, which can make pregnancy and birth more risky.”
MS Question 4: Erectile Dysfunction
Is my MS to blame for my erectile dysfunction?
Could be. The problem affects about 60 percent of men with multiple sclerosis. It may be a consequence of nerve damage, a side effect of medication or the result of stress or depression. No matter, oral meds such as sildenafil or vardenafil (Viagra, Levitra) or injectables like papaverine (Papacon) are viable options. Beyond medications, it may be helpful to contact a mental health professional or a couples counselor who can help you open up about the intimacy issues you and your partner may be experiencing. With a pro’s help, you can work toward improvements.
From our sister publication, REMEDYMD: Multiple Sclerosis 2011