Parkinson's is a progressive and fluctuating neurological condition that affects movements such as walking, writing, and swallowing.
Parkinson's occurs when there are cells lost from the part of the brain that controls movement. These lost cells are the cells that produce dopamine, a chemical messenger that allows us to perform co-ordinated movements by transmitting messages between nerve cells and muscles. If approximately 80% of the dopamine-producing nerve cells have been lost, the symptoms of Parkinson's appear. It is not known what causes the depletion of dopamine-producing cells.
Parkinsons and bladder problems
There are two main problems that can occur with the bladder in Parkinson's, these are urge incontinence (overactive bladder) and nocturia/nocturnal enuresis (needing to empty your bladder at night/ bed wetting).
Urge incontinence - this occurs when messages from the brain telling the bladder to wait are not getting through properly. You may experience feelings of urgency. In some cases you may be unable to find a toilet in time and may have an accident.
Nocturia/Nocturnal Enuresis - If you have an overactive bladder you may also feel the need to urinate more often than before. This may wake you up or your bladder may empty while you are asleep.
Some people may however suffer from not completely emptying their bladder. This is usually found during bladder investigations such as an ultrasound of the bladder after urinating.
Parkinson's and bowel problems
People with Parkinson's may at some time or another experience some bowel problems.
Constipation is the most common bowel problem associated with Parkinson's. When related to Parkinson's, constipation has several causes;
- The muscles of the bowel wall can be affected due to problems with mobility and rigidity.
- Lack of movement and exercise means that the bowel is not stimulated to function normally.
- As some people with Parkinson's have problems with swallowing, they maybe unable to eat a diet with enough fibre.
- Some people do not drink enough fluid and this can cause the motions to be harder and more difficult to pass.
Actually emptying the bowel can be a problem, it might be difficult to brace the abdominal muscles to assist bowel emptying and the anal sphincter may not relax at the right time to allow the stool to be passed easily.
If you are experiencing problems on a regular basis or for a prolonged period of time there is plenty of professional help available. Ideally you should speak to a healthcare professional who understands the nature of Parkinson's.
Parkinson's nurses are experienced registered general nurses who have completed a special course in Parkinson's. They can help you manage your symptoms effectively. To find out if there is a Parkinson's nurse in your area contact your GP or specialist. You can also contact the Parkinson's UK helpline on 0808 800 0303 or email firstname.lastname@example.org