Botox injections have cured my embarrassing bladder problem
20:59 GMT, 28 April 2012
Emma Henderson said the treatment means she can lead a normal life
It has been used to treat everything from wrinkles to depression, and excessive sweating to strokes. And now, thanks to the success of clinical trials, Botox is being offered on the NHS for people suffering the embarrassment of urinary incontinence.
Previously the treatment was available only to those suffering neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease, which may also affect continence.
But the injectable toxin, which works by blocking nerve transmissions within muscles, is being prescribed for general overactive bladder syndrome (OAB).
The condition is thought to affect one in six Britons. Most sufferers are aged over 40 and women are twice as likely as men to develop the condition.
Sufferers suddenly feel an overwhelming urge to pass urine and cannot hold it. If you need to pass urine more than seven times a day, you could be suffering from the condition.
OAB can be caused by diabetes, an infection, bladder stones and spinal injury. In men, prostate problems can lead to an overactive bladder, but for many people the cause is never determined.
Treatment includes pelvic-floor exercises and medication, as well as a fibre-rich diet, because the pressure caused by constipation can make the condition worse.
Botox is thought to work on the sensory nerves in the bladder. The procedure is carried out under local anaesthetic and lasts about 30 minutes. A tube is inserted directly into the urethra – the opening of the bladder – with a needle and a camera on the end called a cystoscope.
When surgeons reach the bladder, the Botox is injected directly into the muscles surrounding it. About 30 jabs are administered to ensure the muscles relax sufficiently, and each procedure alleviates the condition for six to eight months.
One sufferer to benefit is Emma Henderson, who was just seven when her troubles began.
Emma, 22, from Bristol, says: ‘It affected me psychologically. I couldn’t be in a supermarket or anywhere crowded in case I lost control. And I couldn’t drink wine as the diuretic effect of the alcohol worsened my condition for a week afterwards.’
In April 2009, Emma was referred to a urologist, who diagnosed her with OAB, and in February 2010 she underwent the Botox procedure at the Worcester Royal Hospital.
‘It was life-changing,’ she says. ‘Suddenly I didn’t need to go to the loo all the time. I could go out again, drink wine at parties, have fun dancing, or enjoy a film at the cinema without the fear of wetting myself.’
Since then she has experienced very few problems, with symptoms returning only towards the end of the eight-month period.
‘I get a bit anxious around that time but I do my best to lead a normal life,’ says Emma.
‘It feels so good that I no longer have to know where the nearest lavatory is. It’s great being able to enjoy a long walk in the countryside with my new boyfriend.’