After over 20 years of living with multiple sclerosis, MS blogger Martin Baum asks what happens when a symptom turns out to be nothing to do with MS after all?
Living with an illness that encompasses a myriad of symptoms, the moment there is a body malfunction, the tendency is to blame MS. Certainly, given its predisposition to exploit physical and mental vulnerabilities, that is not an unreasonable assumption. But what if, as I was recently to discover, the problem has nothing to do with MS, then what?
My rapport with my bladder has never been a match made in heaven. However, over the years I have found a way to live with and abide by it as best I can. From learning how to apply physical pressure in using my hands in an act of manual dexterity to being schooled in self-catheterisation I thought I had my bladder control covered.
Because frequent urination and a strong persistent urge to urinate is not an uncommon MS-related occurrence, it was impossible to predict I had a urinary tract infection (UTI). The fact that UTIs are less common in men than in women was as much use to me as all my bladder exercises were in UTI pain alleviation; The stinging feeling was constant. I was confused, feverish and ill. My distress was beyond words.
It took a full month and two courses of antibiotics to finally clear the infection from the urethra. I had a scan on my bladder to confirm (or deny) what damage I might have sustained. Thankfully, though, there was nothing untoward going on, like damage to my kidneys.
However, like a smoker ignoring warnings about tobacco, I had always disregarded medical advice on how much water I should drink; three litres a day, which I stubbornly refused to follow. My rationale dictated the less I drank would mean less agitation on my bladder which would cause less trips to the toilet.
As it turned out this was not the smartest thing I could have done. Drinking water helps dilute urine, allowing bacteria to be flushed from the urinary tract before an infection can begin. This was not exactly rocket science because it was not as if I had not been warned by my GP and neurologist as well as my wife/carer.
After decades of thinking I knew better it turned out that I didn’t. Sadly, it took a UTI from hell for me to finally realise that as far as this round of bladder issues went, this time it was me and not MS who was responsible and with it a lesson learned in being accountable for my own wellbeing.
Live and learn, as they say.