B-o-t-o-x could spell relief for urinary incontinence patients

When you think of someone who’s had Botox, you’re probably imagining someone who could qualify for one of those Real Housewives shows. But, the wrinkle-reducer has also proven itself to help treat a number of medical problems, including urinary incontinence.

The Food and Drug Administration recently approved the drug to treat overactive bladders in people with neurological conditions such as spinal cord injuries and multiple sclerosis.

“The treatment consists of Botox being injected into the bladder resulting in relaxation of the bladder, an increase in storage capacity and a decrease in urinary incontinence,” the FDA said in a news release.

The only potentially negative side effect is urinary retention (where the patient can not relieve themselves), but Baylor Scott & White urologist, Erin T. Bird, MD, MBA, said the chance of that happening is only about 25 percent in a patient with normal voiding function or higher in patients with nerve problems.

Because the risk is so low, Dr. Bird and his staff performed several Botox injections on urinary incontinence patients a few years ago. But because the FDA had not yet approved the drug for that function, it became too expensive for most patients to afford.

“But now we anticipate restarting our bladder, Botox program,” Dr. Bird said.


Some insurance companies may cover the cost, which can be up to $1,000 just for the medication, but the patient will still have to get prior authorization.

“It’s a medicine, so if it’s not on their formulary, then they don’t have to pay for it,” he said.

Even though Botox is only approved to treat neurogenic incontinence at this time, Dr. Bird said he predicts that the FDA will eventually approve it for all patients with bladder leakage issues, and more insurance companies will foot the bill.

However, patients have to keep in mind that Botox isn’t a permanent solution.

“The treatment would have to be repeated every three to nine months to continue alleviating the problem,” Dr. Bird said.

While these types of injections may not be a cure, they could be a better option for patients who don’t want more permanent solutions like the InterStim therapy, which includes a surgical implant that acts as sort of a bladder pacemaker or regulator.

“Some patients who have failed with medications for overactive bladder would rather have Botox then have an implant,” Dr. Bird said.

As doctors and FDA officials learn more about the benefits of using Botox, more conditions like urinary incontinence could be alleviated.

According to the government agency, the drug has already been approved in the treatment of chronic migraines, certain kinds of muscle stiffness and contraction, severe underarm sweating and abnormal twitching of the eye.

To learn more about your urinary incontinence treatment options, find a physician in your area.

About the author

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Jessa McClure holds a degree in journalism and mass communication from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, TX, where she is currently an adviser for student publications. She has been a writer in the health care field since 2009.

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B-o-t-o-x could spell relief for urinary incontinence patients