If you are showing signs of urinary incontinence or if your incontinence
problem seems to be getting worse, take stock of your medicine cabinet. Not for
a new remedy, but to find overlooked causes of incontinence, or the explanation
for your worsening symptoms.
Commonly recommended medications could be the cause of your incontinence, or
at least contributing to them.
By Amy Engeler
At 3 a.m., with all the houses dark up and down her winding suburban street in West Warwick, Rhode Island, Jo-Ann Frey, 37, lights a candle so she can see well enough to dust her furniture. Careful not to turn on any lights or make noise that might wake up her family, she drifts from room to room with her candle and cleaning supplies, waiting until she feels sleepy enough to climb back into bed. That feeling doesn't come -- and when she hears the alarm in the bedroom go off...
Medications affect people differently, so one person with incontinence may
not notice worsening symptoms, while another person does.
If you suspect medications may be worsening or the cause of your urinary
incontinence, describe your incontinence symptoms to your doctor and let him or
her know about all the medicines you take, both prescription and
over-the-counter. That way, your doctor can help determine whether these
medicines should be adjusted or stopped, or if a treatment should be
Here are the most common medicines that can worsen or cause urinary
1. High Blood Pressure Medicine as a Cause of Urinary Incontinence
Also called alpha-adrenergic antagonists, these medicines -- including
Cardura, Minipress, and Hytrin -- work by dilating blood vessels to reduce your
In women, alpha blockers can relax the bladder. "So, if they cough or
sneeze, they might lose urine," says Rodney Appell, MD, director of the
Baylor Continence Center at the Baylor College of Medicine, Houston.
If you are a woman on an alpha blocker and you are experiencing urinary
incontinence, Appell has this advice: "Go back to the internist who
prescribed the alpha blocker and ask if there is something else you can be
In men, these medications actually are prescribed to help with urination
problems. In men with an enlarged prostate, a condition called benign prostatic
hyperplasia, or BPH, alpha blockers can help relax the muscles in the bladder
neck, letting urine flow more easily and improving symptoms of BPH.
2. Antidepressants as a Cause of Urinary Incontinence
While a few antidepressants actually help urinary incontinence (Tofranil and
Elavil), most can worsen symptoms of urinary incontinence, at least in some
people, Appell tells WebMD.
Antidepressants can impair the contractility of the bladder, and that can
worsen symptoms of overflow incontinence, in which the bladder can't empty
completely. Other antidepressants may decrease your awareness of the need to
If you think your antidepressant is worsening your incontinence, talk to
your doctor about switching to another medication.
3. Diuretics as a Cause of Urinary Incontinence
Commonly called "water pills," diuretics work in the kidney to
reduce blood pressure by flushing excess water and salt out of the body.
"If you take your diuretic, you are making more urine," says David
Ginsberg, MD, a urologist and associate professor of clinical urology at the
Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles.
That translates to more bathroom visits and a worsening of incontinence
symptoms, he says.