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Incontinence & Overactive Bladder Health Center

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Anticholinergics for Urinary Incontinence in Women

Examples

Generic NameBrand Name
fesoterodineToviaz
oxybutyninDitropan, Gelnique, Oxytrol
solifenacinVesicare
tolterodineDetrol

How It Works

Anticholinergic medicines block nerves that control bladder muscle contractions and allow for relaxation of the bladder smooth muscle. These actions work together to help control urge urinary incontinence.

Why It Is Used

Anticholinergic medicines are used to treat urge incontinence and overactive bladder.

How Well It Works

These medicines rarely cure urge incontinence or overactive bladder. In general, people taking these medicines had about 5 fewer trips to the toilet and 4 fewer leakage episodes each week. People taking these medicines also felt they had a better quality of life.1

Adding these medicines to behavioral therapies like bladder training can help symptoms of urge incontinence and overactive bladder more than behavioral treatment alone can help.2

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call911or other emergency services right away if you have:

Call your doctor if you have:

  • Hives.
  • Vision problems.
  • Bloody or cloudy urine.
  • Pain or burning when you urinate.
  • Problems with urination, including difficulty beginning to urinate, a urine stream that stops and starts, a weak urine stream, a need to strain while urinating, or a sense that the bladder is not empty after urination.
  • A dry mouth for more than 2 weeks.

Common side effects of this medicine include:

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Dry mouth is common with these medicines. To help with dry mouth, you can chew sugarless gum, suck on sugarless candy, or melt ice in your mouth. If you continue to have problems with dry mouth after a couple weeks, call your doctor. Dry mouth can lead to tooth decay and gum disease.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or trying to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.

Checkups

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

Citations

  1. Nabi G, et al. (2006). Anticholinergic drugs versus placebo for overactive bladder syndrome in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (4).

  2. Alhasso AA, et al. (2006). Anticholinergic drugs versus non-drug active therapies for overactive bladder syndrome in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (4).

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerAvery L. Seifert, MD - Urology
Last RevisedSeptember 11, 2012

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: September 11, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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