A new, alternative treatment for OAB?
The body of scientific evidence on the specific medial benefits of marijuana is just now beginning to bulk up, which is good since marijuana is legal here in Colorado. New studies indicate some interesting applications, such as evidence showing that cannabinoids can help women with overactive bladder (OAB).
That gets a urogynecologist’s attention—particularly one who practices at one of the few institutions in the country where it is legal to do medical research on marijuana. University of Colorado has grants for researchers to study just this kind of lead. And CU Urogynecology may pursue this in the future.
Does pot mellow a jumpy bladder?
About 20 million women have overactive bladder (OAB), which is a real pain in the lifestyle. Due to urgent need to urinate and urinary incontinence from OAB, mishaps, embarrassment and emotional worry occur. Women often alter their activities to avoid being in many situations they would otherwise enjoy.
What generally happens with OAB is that the muscles of the bladder contract spasmodically and with no warning the woman feels she has to urinate immediately. These contractions of the detrusor muscles on the bladder wall are so strong that urine sneaks past the sphincter muscles, which usually stop urine from passing.
Studies since 2008 have shown that the cannabinoids from orally ingested marijuana appear to have an impact on the brain/bladder signaling. Older and more recent studies suggest that cannabis may have a role in reducing the misfires that result in OAB.
The detrusor muscles are relaxed when urine is stored and contract to expel it from the bladder. But the signaling disconnect causes the detrusor muscles to spasm and contract uncontrollably. And out comes the urine, unexpectedly and inconveniently.
Researchers found that the body has receptors for the cannabinoids CB1 and CB2 in the brain and bladder, as well as in other parts of the body. CB1, and to a lesser extent CB2, work at various levels on the detrusor muscles. Research is pointing toward the conclusion that CB1 receptors do have an impact on urination and their manipulation with cannabinoids from marijuana has promise for treating OAB.
But women with OAB, don’t start popping pot pills just yet. A lot of heavy lifting in the lab has to take place before any doctor would suggest that you take pot for OAB, based on promising results of incomplete studies.
A 2014 study by the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) finds proof that cannabis helps relieve some symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS), such as OAB, pain and spasticity. AAN says the associated side effects of mental impairment, depression, seizures and memory loss should be considered before physicians prescribe cannabis for these MS symptoms.
Cannabinoids from marijuana are used by medical professionals for pain relief, appetite stimulation, nausea control and muscle spasms. These benefits are perhaps most broadly used in treating side effects of chemotherapy. It is important to note that the Food and Drug Administration has not approved smoked marijuana for any disease or condition.
We will continue to keep an eye out for any kind of help for women with OAB and other urogynecologic conditions. Marijuana might just offer a new avenue for treatment of OAB.
The medical community is seriously investigating marijuana’s potential. And due to our special status as authorized researchers on medical marijuana, the University of Colorado will likely be at the nexus of such efforts. We’ll let you know when we have some definitive results that can bring relief to women with OAB.
University of Colorado Urogynecology is a specialty women’s health practice focused on female pelvic health and surgery. Our physicians are also professors & researchers for the CU School of Medicine, one of the top-ranked medical schools in the nation.