Stroke: Bladder and Bowel Problems

Stroke: Bladder and Bowel Problems

Topic Overview

Urinary incontinence

Some people who have a stroke suffer loss of bladder control (urinary incontinence) after the stroke. But this is usually temporary. And it can have many causes, including infection, constipation, and the effects of medicines.

If you have problems controlling your bladder, your doctor may:

  • Test a urine sample to see if you have an infection.
  • Do tests to see how you urinate, which can help you and your doctor decide what treatment might work best for you.
  • Help you develop a schedule of regular bathroom use that fits your abilities.
  • Suggest that you wear protective clothing or a pad.
  • Prescribe medicines, depending on the cause of your bladder problems.

Some things you can do to prevent bladder leakage include:

  • Emptying your bladder at regular intervals, including when you first wake up and at bedtime.
  • Controlling your liquid intake, such as drinking liquids at regular intervals and limiting fluid intake after dinner.

Urinary retention

You may have trouble emptying your bladder completely (urinary retention). Urinary retention is common, especially right after a stroke, but it usually improves over time.

If you have urinary retention problems, your doctor may:

  • Place a tube (catheter) into your bladder to prevent too much urine from building up. This is used only if absolutely needed. (For more information, see the topic Urinary Incontinence in Men or Urinary Incontinence in Women.)
  • Have you avoid medicines with certain side effects that cause the bladder to retain urine.
  • Prescribe medicines, depending on the cause of your bladder problems.
  • Test a urine sample to see if you have an infection (common with urinary retention problems).

Constipation

Stroke by itself does not cause constipation. But constipation often occurs after a stroke because you are not drinking enough liquids, are in bed most of the time, or are taking certain medicines as part of your treatment. If your constipation is severe, stool can become lodged (impacted) in the bowel.

If you are concerned about any of your symptoms, call your doctor before you try home treatment. Constipation can be treated at home.

If you are constipated:

  • Drink extra liquids, especially water.
  • Set a regular time for using the toilet.

If you continue to have problems with constipation, your doctor may recommend a bulking agent (such as Metamucil), a stool softener, or regular use of a laxative or enema.

References

Other Works Consulted

  • Winstein CJ, et al. (2016). Guidelines for adult stroke rehabilitation and recovery: A guideline for healthcare professionals from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Stroke, published online May 4, 2016. DOI: 10.1161/STR.0000000000000098. Accessed June 3, 2016.

Credits

Current as of: September 26, 2018

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Richard D. Zorowitz MD - Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

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