Drugs that Affect Bladder Control

Drugs for disorders that affect the ability of the bladder to store or expel urine

Common drugs

    Anticholinergic drugs

  • Flavoxate

  • Imipramine

  • Oxybutynin

  • Propantheline

  • Solifenacin

  • Tolterodine


    Alpha-blocker drugs

  • Alfuzosin

  • Doxazosin

  • Tamsulosin

  • Terazosin

    Other drugs for bladder disorders

  • Dutasteride

  • Finasteride

  • Imipramine

Drugs may be used to treat disorders that affect the normal functioning of the bladder. These disorders fall into two main groups: urinary incontinence, in which there is involuntary leakage of urine; and urinary retention, in which there is difficulty emptying the bladder.

Urinary incontinence may occur for many reasons, including involuntary contractions of the muscle of the bladder wall, loss of nerve control due to a disorder such as stroke, or poor muscle tone at the bladder outlet, which is common in postmenopausal women. Bedwetting is a common form of incontinence in young children. Normally, bedwetting stops by the age of 6, but some children do not gain full bladder control until they are older.

Urinary retention can also occur for a variety of reasons, including damage to nerves supplying the muscle of the bladder wall or an obstruction that prevents the outflow of urine from the bladder, which is commonly caused by an enlarged prostate gland.

What are the types?

Anticholinergic drugs (also called antimuscarinics) are used to treat incontinence. Desmopressin may occasionally be used to treat bedwetting in children. Urinary retention may be treated with alpha-blocker drugs.

Drugs for incontinence

You may be prescribed an anticholinergic drug if you have frequent, sudden urges to pass urine and cannot control your bladder. These drugs work by relaxing the muscle in the bladder wall. This increases the bladder’s capacity and reduces the urge to pass urine. If you are taking these drugs, you may have side effects such as a dry mouth, blurred vision, constipation, and nausea; they may also worsen glaucoma.

Bedwetting in children is sometimes treated with desmopressin, which is a synthetic version of a natural hormone produced by the pituitary gland that reduces urine production. Desmopressin may be given either orally or as a nasal spray. Side effects of the drug may include fluid retention, salt imbalance, nausea, and headache. Rarely, desmopressin can cause seizures.

Other drugs that may be helpful for overcoming bedwetting in children are tricyclic antidepressants such as imipramine. This type of drug is given in small doses and is rarely used for longer than 3 months.

Drugs for urinary retention

Alpha-blockers, such as doxazosin, may be used to treat urinary retention that develops gradually due to noncancerous enlargement of the prostate gland. The drugs work by relaxing the muscles at the bladder outlet, allowing urine to flow out more easily. Alpha-blockers sometimes cause drowsiness, headache, dry mouth, nausea, and mood changes. They may also lower blood pressure, resulting in light-headedness.

In some cases, finasteride or dutasteride (see Drugs for prostate disorders) may be used to shrink the prostate gland and allow urine to flow more easily. However, these drugs may take several months to become effective.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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