about PARKINSON'S

Parkinson's is a condition that affects more than 80,000 Australians and currently has no cure. Symptoms of Parkinson's include tremor, slowness of movement, walking difficulties, and blood pressure fluctuations. It can also cause people to experience bladder and bowel issues.

PARKINSON'S AND THE BLADDER

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

  • Urgency - having little warning that you need to pass urine (wee)
  • Frequency - having the desire to pass urine often, and usually only passing a small amount at a time
  • Retention - not being able to completely empty the bladder
  • Nocturia - needing to get up one or more times during the main sleep period to pass urine.

Why do urgency and frequency occur?

Bladder difficulties in Parkinson’s are related to changes in the level of dopamine affecting the function of the bladder muscle. Parkinson’s is also thought to affect the nerve pathway between the bladder and the part of the brain controlling bladder function. Some of the symptoms that affect bladder control are related to the level of dopamine in your body which will rise and fall depending on your medication level.

Other conditions such as weak pelvic floor muscles or an enlarged prostate will contribute to bladder symptoms. Constipation can also worsen bladder symptoms by putting pressure on the bladder.

What you can do to help

  • Discuss bladder problems with your family doctor or neurologist, who may perform some tests to rule out urinary tract infection or other problems.
  • Speak with your family doctor or neurologist about a referral to a urologist (a doctor who specialises in bladder function). The urologist will be able to look into any bladder symptoms and provide treatment plans.
  • Be aware that bladder difficulties can be a sign of “wearing off”. Wearing off is where some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s occur or worsen between doses of medication and are related to the level of medication becoming too low. Taking your medication on time every time helps reduce fluctuations and that will help reduce bladder difficulties.
  • Managing constipation and making sure that you have regular bowel movements will also assist in minimising bladder problems.

PARKINSON'S AND THE BOWEL

Parkinson’s and constipation

Constipation is a common issue for many people with Parkinson’s. It is important that you seek help to manage your constipation because if left untreated it can lead to several problems.

Constipation can cause nausea, lethargy and impact on quality of life. Severe constipation can mimic diarrhoea with loose bowel motions that are caused by the hard motion irritating the bowel wall. 

Constipation can also disturb your bladder causing you to pass urine more frequently and urgently. Constipation may make it more difficult for you to empty your bladder and this can result in urinary tract infections.

How Parkinson's causes constipation

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

  1. The muscles of the bowel can be affected, altering how food moves through the bowel.
  2. Medication used to treat Parkinson’s can slow down the bowel.
  3. Chewing and swallowing difficulties may affect your ability to eat an adequate diet and drink an adequate amount of fluid.
  4. The muscles used for walking and exercise programs can be affected and decreased levels of adequate exercise can affect bowel activity.

SEEK HELP

In many cases incontinence can be prevented, better managed and even cured. Talk to your family doctor, neurologist, or contact the National Continence Helpline on 1800 33 00 66.

The National Continence Helpline is staffed by continence nurse specialists who offer free and confidential information, advice and support.  They also provide a wide range of continence-related resources and referrals to local services.

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Last Updated: Sun 31, May 2020
Last Reviewed: Fri 20, Mar 2020