London, June 29 : Celebrities have accredited it with the title of 'miracle drug' as it keeps wrinkles at bay - and now millions of people can benefit from Botox injections to cure a far less glamorous problem - incontinence.
The controversial muscle-freezing drug botulinum toxin A - famed for its ability to smooth out frown lines - has been identified as highly effective for incontinence.
The condition can cause embarrassment and inconvenience and in extreme cases can make sufferers prisoners in their own homes.
Laurence Stewart, a consultant urologist at the Spire Murrayfield Hospital in Edinburgh has performed experimental bladder injections on around 100 private and NHS patients and says it is so successful it should be offered on the NHS.
Although the 1,800 pounds procedure is uncomfortable, involving around 25 injections into the bladder, women who have undergone it say it has transformed their lives.
"This condition is devastating. Patients affected by it might go to the toilet every one or two hours, day and night, compared to seven times a day for someone who doesn't have the problem," The Scotsman quoted Stewart, as saying.
Incontinence affects men and women in equal numbers but men are generally better able to control it. The condition has many causes, including the ageing process, previous surgery and illnesses. Traditional treatments include bladder training and pelvic floor exercises; oral medication, which has side effects such as a dry mouth; and surgery.
With the new procedure, patients receive a local anaesthetic and a flexible tube called a cystoscope containing a camera and a needle is inserted into the bladder via the urethra. The toxin works on the nerve ends in the bladder, blocking signals to the muscles.