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Women who smoke may be more likely to have bladder symptoms

August 24, 2011

By Patricia Nicholson

New research suggests that smoking may be linked to bladder complaints in women. Smokers and those who used to smoke were more likely to report urinary urgency (sudden, urgent need to urinate) and urinary frequency (need to urinate often) than women who never smoked.

However, smoking did not appear to have a significant effect on incontinence or nocturia (waking up in the night to urinate).

An international team of researchers surveyed 2,000 women in Finland about their smoking and bladder habits. About half of the women (53 per cent) had never smoked, 23 per cent were smokers and 24 per cent were former smokers.

Bladder complaints were fairly common:

  • 3 per cent reported urgency incontinence (urine leakage when feeling a sudden need to urinate)
  • 7 per cent reported urinary frequency (need to urinate at intervals of less than two hours)
  • 10 per cent reported urgency
  • 11 per cent reported stress incontinence (urine leakage when coughing, laughing, etc.)
  • 13 per cent reported nocturia (defined as waking up at least twice per night to urinate)

Smoking was linked to both urgency and frequency in both current and former smokers, and the link was strongest in heavy smokers. Current smokers were three times as likely to have urinary frequency and 2.7 times as likely to have urgency, compared to women who never smoked. Among smokers, heavy smokers (more than 20 cigarettes per day) had twice the risk of frequency or urgency as light smokers (fewer than 10 cigarettes per day).

Former smokers were also more likely to have urinary urgency and frequency, although not to the same extent as current smokers. Women who used to smoke were 80 per cent more likely to report urgency and 70 per cent more likely to report frequency compared to women who never smoked.

The researchers did not find significant links between smoking and incontinence or nocturia.

The study appears in the September 2011 issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

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  • A publication of:
  • Women's College Hospital