The occurrence of urogenital dysfunction as an isolated early symptom in multiple sclerosis (MS) is rare, but the prevalence thereof becomes high with progression of disease. Lower urinary tract dysfunction may add to the cause of death (particularly through urinary infections), but both urinary and sexual dysfunction significantly affect quality of life of patients.
Both storage and evacuation of urine may be affected by MS, and ultimatively the functional diagnosis can only be made by urodynamic testing. As upper urinary tract affection is, however, rare (and can be prevented by timely ultrasound imaging), a first stage diagnostics in the MS center by the neurologist and specialized nurse is appropriate. History, urine tests and post void residual urine determination (preferably by ultrasound) should provide necessary data for treatment of infections, and also symptomatic management of frequency, urgency and incontinence by bladder training, anticholinergics, and intermittent self catheterization (as indicated); the referral to urologist may be reserved for patients who fail first line treatment. Treatment in the late stages of MS is as yet little researched, but eventually a suprapubic catheter is the preferred method of bladder emptying. Sexual dysfunction should be actively sought in MS patients (in men erectile and ejaculation dysfunction, in women deficient lubrication and genital hyper- or hyposensitivity are frequent). Clinical examination contributes little to clarification of neurogenic sexual dysfunction, but defines the extent of other deficits due to MS, which may be relevant for sexual counseling (spasticity, sensory loss). Sildenafil has been demonstrated to be effective in treatment of men, but not in women. Other management options exist, and the doctor and nurse in the MS center should be proactive in providing first line counseling and management.