Mobility impairments can affect your urinary health in several different ways. The kidneys and bladder can be affected, the nerves that send messages from the brain to these organs can be affected, or you may have effects due to secondary conditions. The most common forms of bladder problems are discussed below, along with the goals of bladder health management, and finally, a brief overview of catheterization, a common form of bladder management.
Though the damage to the body from SCI to the urinary system is much the same in men and women, bladder management in women with SCI is more difficult due to the way the female body is made. The female body makes placement of an external urine collection device impossible. Therefore, women with SCI are encouraged, both for these anatomical reasons as well as the extra health risks of an indwelling catheter, to use intermittent catheterization.2 This means the woman will empty her bladder by inserting a catheter through her vagina.
The goals of bladder management are found to be the same in women and men and include prevention of urinary tract complications such as kidney and bladder stones, making sure all urine is out of the bladder after catheterization, and prevention of urinary tract infections (UTIs).1 Research has not shown a significant association between UTIs and gender but these infections are the most common complication of neurogenic bladder in women with SCI.2 In addition, UTIs are already more common in women and especially so in women with limited pelvic mobility.3 Other research has found that urinary incontinence has led women to limit social and sexual interactions due to fear of an accident.2 Very little information on bladder health in women only with SCI exists other than what is described above and no information exists on how incontinence may effect a woman’s quality of life.
1. Benevento, Barbara T, and Marca L Sipski. 2002. "Neurogenic Bladder, Neurogenic Bowel, and Sexual Dysfunction in People With Spinal Cord Injury." Journal of the American Physical Therapy Association 82: 601-612.
2. Estores, Irene M, and Marca L Sipski. 2004. "Women's Issues After SCI." Topics in Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation 10 (2): 107-125.
3. Mayo Clinic. 2015. Urinary Tract Infection. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/urinary-tract-infection/basics/risk-factors/con-20037892.