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Bladder and Constipation Problems

Parkinson’s commonly leads to problems with constipation and bladder control, including urinary urgency, frequency, retention and nocturia.

These problems add to the challenge of living with Parkinson’s and can have a negative effect on a person’s quality of life. It is important to seek help in managing these problems, as both issues can be effectively managed.

Bladder problems

The most common ways that Parkinson’s can affect bladder control are:

  • Urgency – having little warning that you need to pass urine
  • Frequency – having the desire to pass urine on frequent occasions, and often only passing a small amount at a time
  • Retention – not being able to empty the bladder
  • Nocturia – the desire to empty your bladder frequently once you have gone to bed

Bladder problems are thought to be related to changes in the level of dopamine caused by Parkinson’s. The nerve pathway between the bladder and the part of the brain controlling bladder function are also affected by Parkinson’s. Bladder symptoms can also be linked to medications and the effect of ‘wearing off'.

If you have noticed changes to your bladder function, you should discuss these changes with your GP or specialist. In most circumstances there are effective ways to manage bladder problems. Some medications, pelvic floor exercises and changes to toileting behaviours can all be helpful.

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There are four main ways Parkinson’s may cause constipation:

  • Muscles of the bowel move more slowly
  • Medications can slow down the bowel
  • Chewing and swallowing difficulties can make it difficult to eat sufficient fibre and drink adequate fluid
  • Muscles used for walking and exercise can be affected and lower levels of exercise can affect bowel activity

Useful tips

The main recommendations for managing constipation are:

  • Eat well
    A healthy diet, rich in fibre helps to avoid future problems with constipation
  • Drink well
    Drinking a minimum of 1.5 litres (6-8 glasses) of fluid per day helps to encourage improved bowel movements. The best fluid is water
  • Exercise regularly
    Walking and other forms of exercise help to stimulate bowel movements
  • Practice good toilet habits
    Go to the toilet when you feel the urge and learn about the best sitting position for opening your bowels

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