For women suffering from loss of bladder control, an injection ofbotulinum toxin type A (best known by the brand name Botox) can bring some much needed relief, according to a new study.

Botox is well-recognized as a popular way to temporarily get rid of wrinkles. However, the drug has approval for nine medical conditions including chronic migraines, excessive underarm sweating, eyelid spasms, and more.

Botox is approved for use in the U.S. for urinary incontinence, which affects between 3% and 17% percent of women over age 45 and 3% to 11% of men. In a new study published in the journal JAMA, researchers compared Botox to an implant called InterStim, which can also treat the health condition. Overall, the researchers found Botox provided more day-to-day relief. 

In the study, Dr. Cindy L. Amundsen of Duke University School of Medicine and her colleagues looked at 381 women who had at least six loss of bladder control episodes over three consecutive days, and were not responding well to other treatments, like dietary changes, medication, or pelvic floor exercises. The women were randomly assigned to get a Botox injection or the implant. After a short trial period to see if the women responded to their treatment, 364 of the women were followed for an additional six months and were asked to keep a log of any incontinence issues.

The results were pretty similar between the two therapies: the women who received Botox lowered their number of incontinent episodes by 3.9 on average, and the women with the implant lowered their number by 3.3. The women who got Botox were more likely to report being satisfied with the treatment.

“The take home point is that both treatments are good treatments,” saysAmundsen. “Both therapies are effective at relaxing the overactive bladder muscle, but they do so by different mechanisms.” Though Botox appeared to work ever so slightly better than the implant, it was also associated with a higher risk for urinary tract infections.

Currently, more insurance plans do not cover Botox or InterStim unless a person has exhausted other options. Botox is approved for use on bladder incontinence in men and women.


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