The new treatment for urinary incontinence: relaxing bladder muscles with Botox

It may be best known for keeping celebrities looking young and fresh-faced, but Botox has just been approved for a very different task in the United States.

The country’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has just approved Botox (botulinum toxin A) as a treatment for urinary incontinence in people with multiple sclerosis and some other types of neurological conditions.

Who’d have thought the well-known wrinkle buster would be used to prevent something as far removed from the beauty salon as urinary incontinence? But it’s true. Neurological conditions often cause urinary incontinence because the bladder can become unable to store urine. But now, if you live in the US and have multiple sclerosis or a spinal cord injury, your bladder can be relaxed with an injection of Botox.

Anyone who suffers from even the mildest bladder weakness problem knows how much it can affect their life, but for those with neurological conditions, urinary incontinence can be incredibly debilitating. Until now there were not that many ways of managing the problem either, with drugs to relax the bladder and the use of a catheter to regularly empty the bladder among the most popular.

The FDA approved this latest use of Botox after a couple of clinical studies showed people suffering from spinal cord injury or multiple sclerosis had fewer incontinence episodes when they were treated with Botox compared with those who hadn’t had the injection.

The solution is said to last up to 10 months. However, having Botox injected into your bladder may mean having a general anaesthetic, with side effects including urinary tract infection as well as urinary retention (which means you might still  have to self-catheterise to empty your bladder).

The news, however, does represent progress. But could it lead to the development of treatments for other people with urinary incontinence problems too?

If you suffer from mild bladder weakness, don’t hold your breath. You can, however, get plenty of advice these days on how to manage your problem, as well as find out about bladder strengthening exercises – called pelvic floor exercises – that might help.

Just ask your GP, practice nurse or pharmacist to point you in the right direction, if you haven’t done so already. There are many forms of help available these days, including bladder weakness products available to buy from pharmacies, that there’s no need to suffer in silence any more.

Have you received advice for a bladder weakness problem? What were the best tips you received?