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Study Explores Link Between MS and Bowel Dysfunction

Medically reviewed by Evelyn O. Berman, M.D.
Written by Torrey Kim
Posted on September 22, 2021

  • The authors of a recent study reviewed the Neurogenic Bowel Dysfunction scores of 1,100 participants across nine multiple sclerosis (MS) centers in Italy.
  • Researchers found a “relatively high prevalence” of moderate to severe bowel dysfunction among the study participants.
  • Researchers recommend health care providers proactively screen people with MS for symptoms of neurogenic bowel dysfunction.

Results from a new multicenter study may be helpful in quantifying just how prevalent bowel issues are in people with multiple sclerosis. A report published on Aug. 4 in the Journal of Neurology focused on whether bowel symptoms were common in people with MS, and whether any demographic variables were linked to symptom severity. The multicenter study, which included people with MS who were 18 years of age or older, was conducted in Italy.

The authors analyzed responses from 1,100 people with MS over the course of one month at nine MS centers in Italy. They used the 10-question Neurogenic Bowel Dysfunction (NBD) score, which asked participants to evaluate their NBD symptoms, including those related to both incontinence and constipation.

The researchers found that 14 percent of participants had moderate to severe bowel dysfunction. Bowel dysfunction was more likely among people with more severe levels of disability, progressive phenotypes, older age, and longer disease duration. The study authors said the severity of participants’ bowel dysfunction was predicted by such factors as bladder symptoms, difficulty walking, and female sex.

The authors noted that the rate of bowel dysfunction in participants was lower in this study as compared to other studies. However, the researchers added that this current analysis was performed on people who were classified as having a relatively low level of disability.

The study authors suggested that health care providers should proactively screen people with MS for symptoms of NBD so these symptoms can be addressed before they reach moderate to severe levels of bowel dysfunction.

Posted on September 22, 2021
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Evelyn O. Berman, M.D. is a neurology and pediatric specialist and treats disorders of the brain in children. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about her here.
Torrey Kim is a freelance writer with MyHealthTeam. Learn more about her here.

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