Botox® For An Overactive Bladder

Overactive Bladder

Author: John Ludlow, MD

Botox® is well-known for its use in smoothing wrinkled skin. But for those who struggle with the symptoms of an overactive bladder (OAB), this medication offers promising results for dealing with the burdens of urinary incontinence, too.

What is overactive bladder?

An overactive bladder contracts too often or without warning and creates a sudden urge to urinate. It is one condition that can cause urinary incontinence. If urine is lost involuntarily, this is referred to as urge incontinence. Symptoms of an overactive bladder may include: 

  • A sudden urge to urinate that is difficult to control. 
  • The involuntary loss of urine right after this urge is experienced. 
  • The need to urinate frequently—usually eight or more times in 24 hours. 
  • The need to get up to urinate two or more times per night. 

Behavioral modification, such as reducing large intakes of carbonated beverages, are sometimes effective in dealing with an overactive bladder. However, in some cases, medication may be needed. 

How does Botox® help?

Botox® is the brand name for botulinum toxin. It is used in a variety of conditions to relax muscle by blocking the release of a chemical called acetylcholine. In 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of Botox® for treatment of overactive bladder. In such cases, it may be beneficial for individuals whose OAB has either not responded to other medications, or for whom the side effects of other medications are not tolerable. 

How is Botox® administered?

Botox® is injected directly into the bladder muscle by a physician. This usually takes place during an office visit. Although the injection itself doesn’t take long, patients must wait for at least 30 minutes in the office to make sure the procedure was tolerated well, and must urinate before leaving. 

Although each patient’s response may vary, relief from OAB symptoms is commonly experienced within two weeks of the procedure—and the effects can last for as long as eight months. After that time, the physician will provide guidance about whether another injection is needed. Although there is no limit regarding the length of time that Botox® therapy can be continued, the FDA recommends that treatments be no more frequent than every 12 weeks. 

What are the risks and benefits?

Any invasive procedure carries certain risks that your physician will discuss with you. In this instance, research indicates that some women had a higher number of urinary tract infections with Botox® injections than those who use the oral anticholinergic medications that are commonly used to treat OAB. However, those medications also have side effects—such as dry mouth—which may be avoided with Botox® use.

If you are struggling with urinary incontinence and think you may have OAB, we at Western Michigan Urological Associates want to work with you to find the best option to meet your individual needs. Contact us today.