The anti-wrinkle injection Botox could be the next answer to treating the embarrassing problem of overactive bladders after tests on women showed positive results.
The unlikely use of Botox to strengthen bladder control was tested on 240 subjects at eight different urogynaecology centres in the UK over a period of three years.
The study published in the journal European Urology found that a single injection of Botox directly into the bladder wall greatly decreased the symptoms of incontinence among test subjects.
Nearly half of the participants regained continence after six weeks, while a third remained continent after six months.
“In patients treated with botulinum toxin, incontinence episodes dropped from six a day to less than once a day,” said lead researcher, Dr Douglas Tincello, also a senior lecturer from the University of Leicester and honorary consultant gynaecologist at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust.
“The number of urgency episodes fell from eight a day to three a day at six weeks. These changes were maintained at a similar level for up to six months.”
But the trials also found that one in eight women suffered paralysis of the bladder muscle as a result of the injection of the strong toxin, and needed to use disposable catheters to urinate.
Incontinence is a problem affecting almost 4.8 million Australian men and women, with some of the most common causes being pregnancy, menopause, obesity and urinary tract infections.
The treatment has not been approved yet in the UK or elsewhere, but Dr Tincello said as a treament for incontinence, that Botox: “works so much better than the drugs we have... or bladder training.”
“My patients have been delighted with how well it works, even with the chance of needing to use a catheter,” he said.
The study was funded by the Moulton Charitable Trust, Wellbeing of Women and the Rosetrees Trust, and is the largest to date into the benefits of Botox that is not being funded by drug companies.