Neurogenic Bladder

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Neurogenic bladder is abnormal bladder function caused by a nerve problem. Unable to empty your bladder fully? Needing to urinate too often? Leaking bladder? Neurogenic bladder could be the cause. 

Contact your doctor if you think you may have this condition. The sooner it is treated, the lower the chance of developing other serious conditions, such as a urinary tract infection.

Treatment for Neurogenic Bladder at UVA Health

At UVA Health, you'll have a urology expert to tailor treatment. We'll focuses on relieving symptoms by helping you empty your bladder regularly.

Behavioral Therapy

  • Bladder training — setting a regular schedule to empty your bladder and drinking less fluid
  • Exercises to strengthen muscles around the bladder that help control urine flow
  • Painless electrical stimulation to help the function of bladder muscles


A thin tube, called a catheter, can be inserted to empty the bladder. You can learn to do this yourself or a trained healthcare professional may do it for you.


Surgery may be an option for severe cases when all other treatments fail. Surgical procedures include:

  • Removing part of the muscle that holds the bladder closed, allowing urine to flow out into a collection tube attached to the penis (for men only)
  • Inserting a tube into an opening in the abdomen, allowing urine to flow into a collection bag
  • Using tissue from the bowel to make the bladder larger
  • Replacing the bladder with a pouch made from sections of the bowel or other tissue
  • Inserting a small tube-like device, called a stent, into the bladder neck to allow urine to flow out

Learn more about why we rank among the nation's best for urology care.

Neurogenic Bladder Symptoms

Symptoms of neurogenic bladder may include:

  • Urinary incontinence
  • Dribbling urine stream
  • Straining during urination
  • Inability to urinate (urinary retention)
  • Overflow of urine from a full bladder
  • Painful urination

Testing for Neurogenic Bladder

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You may be asked to keep a diary of how often you empty your bladder and other urinary habits. If your doctor thinks that your symptoms may be caused by a nerve problem, you may have some of the tests below. You may also be referred to an urologist for further evaluation and treatment.

Tests may include the following:

  • Urinalysis
  • Blood tests
  • Bladder function tests
  • Imaging tests of the kidneys, ureters, and bladder, such as:
    • X-rays
    • Ultrasound
    • Computed tomography (CT) scan
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Urodynamics

Common Causes & Risk Factors

Neurogenic bladder results from problems with the nerves carrying messages between the bladder and the brain. The nerve problems may be caused by:

  • Spinal cord injury
  • Tumors of the brain or spinal cord in the pelvic area
  • Infection of the brain or spinal cord
  • Medical conditions affecting the nerves, such as:

We can't prevent most cases of neurogenic bladder. But if you have diabetes, we can help you delay or avoid the problem by helping you control blood sugar levels over the long-term.