November is National Bladder Health Awareness month. There are many factors impacting bladder health. For those living with bladder issues, it can be life-impacting. In the neurotechnology space, there are several options for people living with urinary incontinence, or overactive bladder.
There are two main types of urinary incontinence: Urge incontinence is characterized by the frequent urge to urinate, often accompanied by leakage and discomfort. Stress incontinence results from ineffective muscle control, tissue damage, or muscle weakness within the pelvic floor. Individuals with either form of incontinence often must wear protective devices under their clothing.
Over 15 million people in the U.S. suffer from urge incontinence and more than twice that number worldwide. There are currently several types of pharmaceutical products on the market used to treat urinary urge incontinence, such as Ditropan and Detrol, anticholinergic agents that attempt to block receptors in the bladder muscle. However, these drugs have side effects such as dry mouth, dry skin, visual blurring, nausea, and constipation. The most severe cases, between 500,000 and 1.5 million individuals worldwide, are candidates for electrical stimulation treatment.
There are a few categories of neurotechnology devices for the treatment of bladder disorders. They are:
- Sacral Nerve Stimulator: Implanted device to control the bladder by sending electrical impulses to the nerve that controls the bladder, sacral nerve, sphincter and the muscles around it.
- Tibial Nerve Stimulator: Uses percutaneous electrodes to control the bladder by stimulating the tibial nerve in the lower leg.
- Pelvic Floor Stimulator: Provides stimulation to the pelvic floor muscles to improve the opening and closing of the urethral.
- Direct Muscle Stimulation: Uses an implanted electrode to stimulate the bladder and muscles around it.
An implanted device, currently under investigation, uses electrodes to stimulate the pudendal nerve to provide bladder function. Sacral Magnetic Stimulation is also being investigated for refractory stress urinary incontinence. Other neurotechnology systems under development include vagus nerve and genital nerve stimulation.
Neurotech Network offers free resources and a directory of devices specifically for Bladder & Bowel Disorders. Check out our page here.