While everybody knows that smoking is not good for you, no one would have thought that cigarette smoking could be related to overactive bladder problems in women.
A study published in Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology by the American Society of Obstetrics and Gynaecology has suggested that there might be a correlation between smoking and overactive bladder symptoms. The 3,000 women in the study were sent a survey to assess the type, degree and intensity of urinary symptoms that they suffer from. In addition to questioning them about their smoking history and cigarette consumption patterns.
The women who smoked were much more likely to suffer from symptoms related to overactive bladder; namely, frequency and urgency. Frequency is the symptom reported when the interval between visits to the loo is drastically reduced (in the study it is reported to be two hours.) Urgency is when the urge to urinate is unusually strong and sudden. Overactive bladder leads commonly to an involuntary loss of urine following the sudden urge to empty the bladder.
How Could Smoking Affect the Overactive Bladder?
An overactive bladder is a common cause for urinary incontinence. It is caused by an irritable bladder wall. The condition is commonly aggravated by drugs that further irritate the bladder wall or increase urine output from the kidneys. Cigarettes contain nicotine which is, in fact, a drug that acts in many sites in the human body.
If it does indeed contribute to an overactive bladder, it will be through a stimulatory effect on the muscle of the wall of the bladder leading to inappropriately exaggerated contraction leading to an exacerbation of the feeling of urgency and frequency of urination.
What Are The Results Of The Study?
Women who smoked were more likely to report frequency and urgency, symptoms of overactive bladder, but not other urinary symptoms not related to an overactive bladder.
These results were especially more pronounced in current smokers and even more so in women who are heavy smokers suggesting that the effect of the nicotine might be more pronounced the higher the dose.
There was no proof, however, that smoking predisposed women to urge or stress incontinence.
Does this mean that Smoking Cause an Overactive Bladder?
Although the researchers did indeed report a correlation between the overactive bladder symptoms and the smoking status of the women who responded to the questionnaire, the results are only suggestive and not conclusive. This, in essence, means that most likely smoking , among other factors and underlying conditions, contributes to an overactive bladder.
Implications for Women patients with an Overactive bladder
If you are currently a smoker and you have been diagnosed with an overactive bladder, also called Detrusor instability by the medical community, you should seriously consider quitting smoking. While it has not been proven beyond the shadow of a doubt to be effective in improving your symptoms, the new study definitely points toward a relationship.
Even if quitting smoking does not end up improving your overactive bladder, it will improve your general condition and overall health.
SOURCE: Obstetrics &Gynaecology: Smoking and Bladder Symptoms in Women; Tähtinen, Riikka M. MD et al; September 2011: Volume 113- issue 3.