Diabetic neuropathy is a significant health concern for adults living with diabetes. While we typically associated neuropathy with pain in the feet, there are some diabetic adults who experience neuropathy in other ways. Bladder neuropathy is a significant health concern for many diabetics, especially with aging.
Bladder neuropathy is a complication that affects many adults with diabetes but often does not develop until later in life and typically is associated with a co-morbid health complication such as vitamin B12 deficiency, leprosy, or autoimmune diseases. To diagnose the complication, your doctor can run a series of tests in the office. Because bladder control is managed by several different types of nerves, when you are experiencing complications with diabetes-induced neuropathy, it is not uncommon to experience bladder neuropathy.
If you have been diagnosed with bladder neuropathy, the complications with this form of neuropathy lies primarily in the concern about infection that may develop in the bladder or along the urinary tract. Because bladder neuropathy may result in your inability to fully empty your bladder, the residual urine in the urinary tract can become a place where bacteria can grow in proliferation. It is important, therefore, that you are regularly checked for urinary tract infections and to monitor for early warning signs of possible bladder nerve complications.
When bladder function is a concern, your doctor will most likely recommend that you drink lots of fluids and regularly attempt to go to the bathroom once every two hours, pressing on the bladder to ensure your bladder is empty. In some cases, your doctor may prescribe medications to assist in gaining some degree of nerve function in the bladder. Ultimately, the risk for long term complications may be significant and, should bladder neuropathy become a significant concern leading to frequent infections, your doctor may recommend catheterization.
Managing diabetes is challenging and for many adults the complications of diabetes are often focused on foot health and cardiovascular health. In addition, however, it is important to also manage your bladder health and to monitor for potential urinary tract infections and consider what treatments you may need to avoid catheterization later in life. In the long term, your health can be improved with careful monitoring.
Sources: The Uncomplicated Guide to Diabetes Complications, 3rd ed., by Marvin E. Levin, pp. 217-218.