We hear it all the time. Smoking isn't good for your health, but can it make you leak? "Yes it can," said Kristen Maike, PT, a pelvic floor physical therapist at the Women's Urology Center at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan. Smoking is a risk factor for bladder irritation, LBL, and urge incontinence - that strong urge to go. "Research shows that urge incontinence is three times more common in women who smoke than in those who do not," said Kristen.
Here's what happens. When you smoke, the nicotine, and other chemicals in the cigarette go through your system, into the kidneys, bladder, and into your urine. Kristen explained that when you urinate there's always a little tiny bit of urine left in the bladder. That's normal. But when that urine has an irritant in it (in this case the nicotine, chemicals, and toxins from smoking) it sits there and can cause cell changes in the lower part of the bladder. It was previously believed that 20 to 30 percent of bladder cancer was caused by smoking. In August of 2011 a study showed that women who smoke actually have a 50% risk of getting bladder cancer. "The things you put in your body, they go through the system," said Kristen, "So whether it's something good for you, or things like smoke, alcohol, or drugs, it goes through your body and it's going to affect something." When there are irritants inside, the bladder will spasm. If it spasms a lot and you have a weak pelvic floor, you're going to leak. But even if you don't have a weak pelvic floor, if the bladder is spasming all the time, it confuses the muscles and that can make you leak.
Does the amount you smoke increase the possibility of leakage? Yep! There was a study published In November 2011, in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It says there is a dose related risk of having over active bladder symptoms. The more someone smokes the more symptoms they can expect. Chronic coughing is a common symptom of smoking that can also cause leaks. Coughing increases intra-abdominal pressure. That pressure puts a strain on the bladder and pelvic floor muscles.
Second Hand Smoke Shocker Second hand smoke can cause bladder symptoms in children. Kristen told me about a recent study of 45 children whose mothers smoked. All 45 kids in the study showed bladder symptoms – every one of them. The more their mother's smoked, the more bladder symptoms that showed in their children. This study hit home for Kristen. "Both my parents smoked," she said, "and when I was a child, I got UTI's (urinary tract infections) all the time. I'll bet you it was caused by that." So there you have it - one more reason not to smoke.
What about you? Have you seen improvements after giving up an LBL inducing trigger, like smoking?