Smokers of all ages at higher risk of bladder symptoms

November 12, 2012

Smokers of all ages at higher risk of bladder symptoms

A recent study has brought to light new health problems caused by smoking, which give women yet another reason to quit smoking. Bladder symptoms including an overactive bladder were found to be three times more likely to occur in smokers than in non-smokers. The study looked at 2000 finish women between the ages of 18 and 79 comparing the differences between smokers and non-smokers. Participants who were smokers reported that they often felt an urgency to use the bathroom and had to go more frequently than non-smokers often with a period of less than 2 hours between needing to use the bathroom. There was no strong evidence suggesting that smoking is linked to urge incontinence, whereby leakage occurs after sudden urge to urinate. Although the findings of the study cannot prove that smoking is the direct cause of bladder symptoms, Dr Karl A.O. Tikkinen, the lead researcher says that this is another potential reason to quit smoking to go along with many others. The study was done using a questionnaire, which was sent to 3000 randomly chosen women. 7% of the 2000 women who responded admitted to urinating frequently and 10% said they often had an urgent need to urinate. Stress incontinence was reported in 11% of the women. Stress incontinence is a bladder symptom whereby any stress on the bladder such as coughing, exercise or heavy lifting causes involuntary urine leakage. 3% of the women experienced urge incontinence.

One quarter of the group were current smokers and 10-15% of them reported bladder symptoms. Researchers analysed and compared other factors that are associated with bladder symptoms such as age and body weight to find that current smokers are three times more likely than non-smokers to experience bladder problems.

There are explanations as to why smoking can cause these bladder symptoms according to Dr. Tikkinen. Animal research has been used to find that nicotine can act as a trigger causing an increased amount of muscle contractions in the bladder. Smoking is also thought, over time to damage nerve function in the bladder. This research did not however reveal any strong evidence suggesting that smokers are at a higher risk of either stress or urge incontinence. Although a slightly higher percentage of smokers reported having urge incontinence, the difference between smokers and non-smokers was not significant enough to say that smoking was the cause.

When it comes to stress incontinence, the results were not surprising, as it was not expected for smoking to have an effect on this particular bladder symptom. Studies done in the past have produced similar results and it is though that physical changes during childbirth and the menopause are much more important factors than the presence of nicotine in the system.

It has not yet been confirmed whether quitting smoking will reduce bladder symptoms such as the need to urinate frequently and urgently. It has however been confirmed that smoking is harmful in many other ways so everyone should try to quit anyway. Young smokers are often not put off by the known risks like lung cancer, as it seems like something that won’t affect them until later in life. Bladder symptoms can occur in people of all ages, so researchers are hoping that these finding will be motivation for young smokers as well as older smokers to kick the habit.

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