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Urinary Incontinence Treatment Goes Drugless, Wireless

Urinary incontinence

Urinary incontinence, including overactive bladder, affects millions of people and can be an embarrassing and disturbing problem. Now a breakthrough urinary incontinence treatment may help individuals manage this condition without drugs and, with a nod to advanced technology, also be wireless.

Overactive bladder is a growing problem

If you have repeatedly experienced an overwhelming and unstoppable need to urinate, even though your bladder contained a small amount of urine, then you know what it's like to have an overactive bladder. Overactive bladder is a form of urinary incontinence and results from the involuntary and sudden contraction of the muscle walls of the urinary bladder.

Overactive bladder most often occurs among older adults, and it is believed to affect nearly 10% of adults in the United States. As the US population ages, the prevalence of overactive bladder may increase, although the condition is not considered a normal part of aging.

An overactive bladder may be treated using drugs, such as the anticholinergics fesoterodine (Toviaz), solifenacin (Vesicare), and trospium (Sanctura), the tricyclic antidepressant imipramine (Tofranil), or even botulinum toxin (Botox), with surgery as an option for severe cases. However, a drug-free and painless way to tackle the problem has been developed by experts at Southampton's teaching hospitals, and it is called the VERV system.

The VERV system consists of a small waterproof patch that patients place on the lower back and wear for seven days before replacing it with another patch. VERV also includes a wireless device that patients use to trigger high frequency signals that leave the patch and painlessly stimulate nerves in the spine that control bladder contractions.

The patch was tested in 64 patients during a four-week clinical trial, and the results were presented at the International Continence Society. Researchers reported that 63% of the patch users had at least a 50% reduction in urinary incontinence, and 66% said using the patch had improved their quality of life.

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Ash Monga, a consultant urogynecologist at the Princess Anne Hospital, explained that "for the first time, patients have a non-surgical, drug-free, discreet and effective option which allows them to get their lives back without having to face an operating theatre or make regular trips for hospital treatment."

More about overactive bladder
Overactive bladder is mainly a problem with the nerves and muscles of the bladder, including the detrusor muscle. This muscle is regulated by the nervous system, and the VERV system focuses on triggering the nerves involved in bladder control.

An overactive bladder can be caused by a variety of factors, such as urinary tract infection, bladder stones, dementia, multiple sclerosis, stroke, Parkinson's disease, and spinal cord injury. In many cases, however, there is no apparent cause. Women are affected by urinary incontinence and overactive bladder more than men.

In addition to drugs and surgery, behavioral therapies may be helpful. These include pelvic floor exercises, also known as Kegel exercises, and bladder training, which is the most common drug-free treatment for overactive bladder.

What the new study means
The new treatment device for overactive bladder is still in the trial stage. Monga noted that because of the "extremely promising" results seen thus far, they are initiating a pilot study "to ensure the manufacturer is able to provide the appropriate level of care and support to patients using the therapy."

So although the new drugless and wireless treatment for urinary incontinence is not yet available, Monga noted the device "could improve the quality of life for millions of people while also removing the disappointment that comes with unsuccessful treatments and the fear associated with invasive procedures."

University Hospitals Southampton

Image: Wikimedia Commons