The job of the sphincter muscles is to hold urine in the bladder by squeezing the urethra shut. If the urethral sphincter fails to stay closed, urine may leak out of the bladder. When nerve signals are coordinated properly, the sphincter muscles relax to allow urine to pass through the urethra as the bladder contracts to push out urine. If the signals are not coordinated, the bladder and the sphincter may contract at the same time, so urine cannot pass easily.
Drug therapy for an uncoordinated bladder and urethra. Scientists have not yet found a drug that works selectively on the urethral sphincter muscles, but drugs used to reduce muscle spasms or tremors are sometimes used to help the sphincter relax. Baclofen (Lioresal) is prescribed for muscle spasms or cramping in patients with multiple sclerosis and spinal injuries. Diazepam (Valium) can be taken as a muscle relaxant or to reduce anxiety. Drugs called alpha-adrenergic blockers can also be used to relax the sphincter. Examples of these drugs are alfuzosin (UroXatral), tamsulosin (Flomax), terazosin (Hytrin), and doxazosin (Cardura). The main side effects are low blood pressure, dizziness, fainting, and nasal congestion. All of these drugs have been used to relax the urethral sphincter in people whose sphincter does not relax well on its own.
Botox injection. Botulinum toxin type A (Botox) is best known as a cosmetic treatment for facial wrinkles. Doctors have also found that botulinum toxin is useful in blocking spasms like eye ticks or relaxing muscles in patients with multiple sclerosis. Urologists have found that injecting botulinum toxin into the tissue surrounding the sphincter can help it to relax. Although the FDA has approved botulinum toxin only for facial cosmetic purposes, researchers are studying the safety and effectiveness of botulinum toxin injection into the sphincter for possible FDA approval in the future.
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