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It’s Not Always MS: A Bladder Tale

By Matt Cavallo

It doesn’t seem fair that you can be living a life with multiple sclerosis, navigating the twists and turns of unexpected flare-ups, and then something else happens health-wise. Something that is not MS-related.

Let me give you an example. I’ve reached the age where going to the bathroom isn’t as easy as it used to be. Specifically, I don’t ever feel like I empty my bladder when I go. I have to push hard to even attempt to empty my bladder. Immediately after I think I’m finished; I have to go again. 

For those of you who are frequent readers of my column, you know that I like to research and report on MS-related topics, especially, if I am experiencing any of the symptoms. First, I started to compile all kinds of MS and bladder related research. Next, I got a referral from my neurologist to see a urologist, and had my initial appointment.

The urologist and I talked about my symptoms and my medical history with MS, which dates back more than fifteen years at this point. I told him I had bladder issues with previous exacerbations, and I that these symptoms have persisted for a while now. Based on the information I shared with him, he ordered urodynamic testing and an ultrasound.

There isn’t a way to paint a pretty picture of urodynamic testing. You are seated in a chair, naked from the waist down with a bladder full of liquid and hooked up to a machine that monitors, measures, and collects your urine output. Without getting too graphic, there is really only one way that you can be hooked up to a machine that measures urine. Let’s just say it’s a sensitive topic. Sitting there vulnerable, half-naked, and with tubes inserted into my private area as I attempted to pee was very challenging. If ever there was a case of stage fright, this was it.

The ultrasound was a welcome relief after the urodynamic study. For this procedure, I simply had to lay down, lift my shirt and the ultrasound tech applied a warm lubricant to slide an ultrasound device over the area. It was also kind of cool to see my internal organs on the screen.

Once the tests were completed, I scheduled my follow-up appointment. I had done all of my research and I was convinced that my bladder issues were MS-related based on all of the symptoms. I sat down in the exam room and waited for the urologist. He walked in and reviewed the results with me. 

The results of the tests validated all of what I described. Urodynamics showed my challenges with emptying my bladder and with problems with urine flow. He then went on to show me the ultrasound results and my prostate was enlarged. He informed me I had the prostate of 55-year-old man or someone 10 years old than me.

I asked, “Doctor, is this MS related?”

He said, “No this is related to your enlarged prostate.”

I said, “I was sure this was an MS exacerbation.”

He looked at me and said, “Matt, when it comes to your health, it’s not always MS.”

Although MS is a big part of my medical history, it is not the only health issue I will experience in life. As I get older, I understand I will need to be proactive with not only managing my MS, but also paying attending to all of the other problems that come up along the way.