Sunday, 6 May 2012

Taking the piss

So what would make you want to have a tube shoved up your bahookie and have someone give injections to your bladder from the inside? There's some people would pay good money for that I know, but it's not really to my taste.

Well, it was the latest treatment for my bladder problems.For a long time now, I've had frequency (needing to go all the time) and urgency (once I need to go, I need to go NOW.) I've also had regular UTIs. Last year this reached ridiculous levels. When I stopped antibiotics for one infection, I would have about one blissful bacterium-free week, before succumbing again.

All this was down to my detrusor muscle, the muscle that contracts when you're weeing to squeeze the wee out. I have overactive bladder as a symptom of MS, where the muscle reacts on a hair-trigger: it sends the "I'm full" signal to the brain well before that's actually the case; it responds to external stimuli like running water or opening the front door; and its contractions cause stress and urge incontinence.

So what could be done? Well, obviously, antibiotics for the infections: I worked my way through a wide range, collecting allergies and interesting side-effects along the way (mostly hallucinations - the gazelle giving me a jar of hand cream was my favourite).

I took part in a drug trial, self-injecting twice a week. I knew when I was on the drug rather than the placebo because I got skin reactions. It really, really helped. But then the trial ended, and I was back to the standard medication.

The standard medication is anticholinergic drugs, which help to stop the detrusor muscle from over-reacting. They help, a little, but not much. I still have a lot of problems.

So it was proposed that I should have botox. No, not up there. Down there. The idea is to partially paralyse the detrusor muscle so that it's not so twitchy. And the way they access it is through what's normally the exit.

In due course, therefore, I found myself on an operating table with my legs up in stirrups, with a charming consultant in there at the business end shoving a tube with a camera attached up where only one man has been before (the urologist who did my previous cystoscopy). The equipment that let him see what was going on also had a small screen that I could see (if I wanted, which being me of course I did), and he was good enough to give me a guided tour of my own bladder - this is the top, this is where the left kidney opens into the bladder etc etc.

The actual injections...weren't nice. But hey, I've got MS, I've experienced a lot worse. If you can imagine someone pinching a bit of your insides, FROM the inside, really hard, that's kind of what each one is like.

But it was soon over, and there was no pain afterwards. And the very next morning, I woke up, needing the loo, yes, but not desperate - I'd forgotten what that felt like! Generally the effects have been wonderful. I can hold on for absolute hours, as opposed to my previous average of about 40 seconds!

Predictably enough, with my history, I got an infection, but that was soon sorted out with antibiotics. I'm still on a low dose, to protect me against any more. The ongoing side-effect is that I've kind of gone the opposite way to where I was before. I now can't wee when I want to! Well, I can, but it's hard work, y'know? Seems the injections have worked a little too well. Hopefully that'll settle down in time. In the meantime it's still preferable to my previous problems.

So all in all a positive experience, and I'd definitely recommend botox if you have overactive bladder and the standard meds aren't helping you. I'll have to have it repeated every 6-9 months, but that's small price to pay for the benefits.

And, of course, for having the smoother, more youthful bladder I've always dreamed of...


  1. Wow, this post couldn't be better timed... this morning, I've been having to go roughly every 15 minutes. I the first time I've been that frequent! Would rather wear a nappy currently than go to the loo. The botox option does sound like a very good idea to return to some sense of normality... but as is the case with my MS symptoms, I may not have this symptom after a good nights sleep! C'est ma vie ;)