Medication Treatment Options for Incontinence


Incontinence MedicationIf you have urge incontinence or overactive bladder and have found that day to day changes and bladder retraining haven’t proved sufficient to bring your condition under control, your GP or Continence Specialist may consider medication options.

There are a number of drug treatments available for  incontinence - a bladder control problem marked by sudden, intense urinary urges and urine leakage. However there are few medication options for stress incontinence.


Here is an overview some treatments more commonly prescribed to treat urinary incontinence along with their possible side effects.


How they work

Anticholinergic drugs block the action of a chemical messenger — acetylcholine — that sends signals to your brain that trigger abnormal bladder contractions associated with overactive bladder. These bladder contractions can make you feel the need to urinate even when your bladder isn't full.

Anticholinergic medications include:

  • Oxybutynin (Ditropan XL, Oxytrol)
  • Tolterodine (Detrol)
  • Darifenacin (Enablex)
  • Solifenacin (Vesicare)
  • Trospium (Sanctura)
  • Fesoterodine (Toviaz)

Some of these medications are available in an extended-release form, meaning you take them once a day. These may have fewer side effects than the immediate-release versions, which are usually taken multiple times a day.

These medications are usually given as a pill or tablet that you take by mouth. Oxybutynin is also available as a cream or skin patch that delivers a continuous amount of medication.

Side effects

Anticholinergics are well known for side effects, the most common side effects of anticholinergics are dry mouth and constipation. Other less common side effects include heartburn, blurry vision, rapid heartbeat (tachycardia), flushed skin, urinary retention and cognitive side effects, such as impaired memory and confusion.

The most common side effect of the oxybutynin skin patch is skin irritation. Your doctor may recommend that you rotate the location of your patch.


How it works

Mirabegron is a medication approved to treat certain types of urinary incontinence. It relaxes the bladder muscle and can increase the amount of urine your bladder can hold. It may also increase the amount you are able to urinate at one time, helping to empty your bladder more completely.

Side effects

Some common side effects of mirabegron include nausea, diarrhea, constipation, dizziness and headache. It can also increase blood pressure, so talk with your doctor about whether you should take mirabegron. In addition, it interacts with many different medications, so make sure your doctor knows which medications you're taking before you begin taking mirabegron.


How it works

Injections of Botox into the bladder muscle may benefit people who have urge incontinence/overactive bladder as Botox blocks the actions of acetylcholine and paralyzes the bladder muscle. Botox may be helpful for people who haven't responded to other medications. Benefits can last several months.

Side effects

Early studies have found that Botox significantly improves symptoms of incontinence and causes few side effects, however this is a relatively new treatment for Incontinence. Some research indicates it may increase urinary tract infections, but the data aren't conclusive.

It must be noted that adverse reactions including respiratory arrest and death may occur after the use of Botox for both approved and unapproved uses.


How it works

After menopause, a woman's body produces less estrogen. This drop in estrogen may contribute to deterioration of the supportive tissues around the bladder and urethra, weakening the tissues and potentially aggravating stress incontinence.

Applying low-dose, topical estrogen in the form of a vaginal cream, an estrogen-containing ring or a patch may help rejuvenate deteriorating tissues in the vagina and urinary tract and relieve some incontinence symptoms.

There's not a lot of scientific evidence to support using topical estrogen to treat urinary incontinence, but some women report that it's helpful for their urinary symptoms. Estrogen may not be recommended if you have a history of breast or uterine cancer or both. Talk with your doctor about the potential risks of using estrogen in your situation.

Side effects

When used correctly, topical estrogen therapy typically doesn't cause side effects. However, to treat incontinence, topical estrogen is usually paired with another medication or therapy — which may cause side effects.


How it works

Imipramine is a tricyclic antidepressant. It makes the bladder muscle relax, while causing the smooth muscles at the bladder neck to contract. It may be used to treat mixed incontinence — a combination of urge and stress incontinence.

Imipramine may cause drowsiness, so it's often taken at night. Because of this, imipramine may be useful for night time incontinence, as well. It may also be helpful for children who bed-wet at night (nocturnal enuresis). Imipramine is usually not a good fit for older adults.

Side effects

Serious side effects from imipramine are rare but can include cardiovascular problems, such as irregular heartbeat and dizziness or fainting from reduced blood pressure when you stand up quickly. Children and older adults may be especially susceptible to these side effects.

Other side effects, including dry mouth, blurry vision and constipation, are similar to those of anticholinergics. Tricyclic antidepressants interact with many different medications, so make sure your doctor knows which medications you're taking before you begin taking imipramine.


How it works

Duloxetine is a serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor that is approved to treat depression and anxiety. It can help the urethral sphincter relax, so it can improve urinary incontinence in some women. It may be especially helpful for women who have urinary incontinence and depression.

Side effects

In research studies, many women stopped taking duloxetine because of its side effects. These can include nausea, dry mouth, dizziness, constipation, insomnia and fatigue. Women who have chronic liver disease should not take duloxetine. Be sure your doctor knows your full medical history before you begin using this drug.

See your doctor

When talking to your doctor, carefully review all the medications you're taking, including over the counter drugs or herbal remedies. Some medications increase incontinenceproblems. Others may interact with incontinence medications in a way that increases symptoms.

Your doctor can help you decide if you need medicine to treat your incontinence and, if so, which one may be best for you.