Experts have discovered more evidence that Botox could be an effective treatment for an overactive bladder, leading to hope that it could be licensed for use on the NHS.
Botulinum toxin A, best known for smoothing out wrinkles in the face, acts by binding to the nerve endings in muscles and blocking muscle contraction. When injected in to specific muscles, they become paralysed and weakened without affecting the surrounding muscles.
A study has now revealed that injecting Botox directly into the wall of an overactive bladder can improve the symptoms for up to six months. This method of treatment is already available for private patents in the UK.
Urinary incontinence is thought to affect more than 50 million in the developed world. Figures from a previous UK study found that 13% of women and 5% of men had some degree of urinary incontinence. Women are more at risk, owing in part to the effects of childbirth.
The latest research, published in the journal European Urology, was carried out at eight urogynaecology centres in the UK from 2006-9 on a total of 240 women with weak bladders.
122 of the women were given Botox and 118 were given dummy treatment.
On average, the number of times the women treated with Botox suffered an episode of incontinence fell from six times a day to under once a day. The number of times they felt an urgent need to go to the toilet fell from 8 times a day to 3 times a day.
About four in 10 of the women treated with Botox became continent again after six weeks and a third were still continent 6 months after the treatment.
The study, funded by the Moulton Charitable Trust, Wellbeing of Women and the Rosetrees Trust, did find that some women did need to use a catheter because of paralysis in the bladder muscle at some time in the 6 months after treatment with Botox.
However, current treatments for an overactive bladder only include pelvic floor exercises, behavioural therapy and drugs that can have side-effects, such as a dry mouth, constipation and blurred vision.
Whilst treatment with Botox is already used in private hospitals like Spire Healthcare across the UK, study leaders hope that the research will lead to Botox being available on the NHS for patients with overactive bladders.
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