Yep, it turns out Botox—onabotulinumtoxinA—does more than smooth away crow’s feet and forehead creases. In 2103, the Federal Drug Administration approved its use for overactive bladder (OAB)—a condition that affects nearly 33 million men and women in the United States.
“With OAB, the bladder tends to spasm or contract,” says Tracy Cannon-Smith, M.D., a Urology Partners’ surgeon certified in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery. “That triggers the urge to go and causes urine leaks. When Botox is injected into the bladder, it relaxes muscles, increases the bladder’s storage capacity and reduces episodes of urinary incontinence. Patients don’t experience as many of those spasms, or they tend to go away altogether.”
Botox for OAB is popular for a good reason. The injections are minimally invasive and done right in the office. The procedure takes less than 10 minutes. “For people who struggle with urgency, frequency, waking up at night, and not being able to make it to the bathroom in time, Botox treats these symptoms really well,” says Dr. Cannon-Smith.
Botox Delivers Fast-Acting Relief
Patients are awake during the short procedure, but local anesthesia ensures there is very little to no discomfort. After the bladder is numb, a cystoscope (a thin tube) is used to place Botox in the bladder muscle.
“Patients typically see improvement within a week,” Dr. Cannon-Smith explains.
On average, Botox usually controls symptoms for about six months and then begins to wear off. Most patients repeat treatment every nine months—although frequency of treatment varies from person to person.
“The same procedure is used for men and women suffering from OAB symptoms,” adds Dr. Cannon-Smith.
The Benefits of Botox
Before receiving Botox injections, patients often try at least two prescription medications to control their OAB symptoms. For those who don’t respond to medications or tolerate them well, Botox is a good alternative.
“Botox doesn’t cause the side effects patients often experience when they take prescription medications for overactive bladder,” says Dr. Cannon-Smith. “Some patients may experience a small amount of blood in their urine immediately after treatment. Urinary tract infection is another possible side effect.”
In very rare cases, temporary urinary retention can happen following the procedure.
Oh, What a Difference!
Dr. Cannon-Smith has seen the positive difference Botox injections have made in the lives of her patients. Once afraid to venture too far away from home or the bathroom, they enjoy renewed freedom. “No longer having to wear expensive pads is liberating, too,” she adds.
Botox injections also offer welcome relief for people who suffer from bladder control issues caused by neurologic diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease or spinal cord injuries. They are also a good option for older patients whose quality of life and sleep has been disrupted by urgency issues.
Botox is Covered by Most Insurance
Because Botox injections are covered by most insurance plans and are often less expensive than daily prescription medications, it’s not surprising that this very effective, minimally invasive treatment option is growing in popularity among the millions of men and women who struggle with the debilitating symptoms of overactive bladder.