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4 Medications That Can Cause or Worsen Incontinence

Ask your doctor if you think medicines may cause your incontinence.

3. Diuretics as a Cause of Urinary Incontinence continued...

"If you need the diuretic, you need it," says Ginsberg. But he recommends you pay more attention to the recommended incontinence treatments, following your doctor's instructions to the letter.

That may mean paying more attention to doing your Kegel exercises, designed to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. Weakened pelvic floor muscles are often the cause of a common type of urinary incontinence called stress incontinence, in which small amounts of urine are leaked, especially when you cough, sneeze, or laugh.

Once you learn how to do Kegel exercises correctly (ask your gynecologist or internist for help), you can do them nearly anytime -- even while driving a car or watching TV or sitting at your desk.

If nighttime incontinence is a problem, you might ask your doctor if you could take the diuretic in the morning, suggests Jennifer Anger, MD, MPH, a urologist at Santa Monica -- UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica, Calif., and an assistant professor of urology at the University of California Los Angeles' David Geffen School of Medicine.

That way, the volume of urine would be greater in the morning and hopefully taper off as the day goes on.

4. Sleeping Pills as a Cause of Urinary Incontinence

Only a small percent of people with incontinence have a problem with bed-wetting, according to Anger, who estimates about 10% of patients with incontinence wet the bed. However, sleeping pills may pose a problem for those with incontinence at night.

"Sleeping pills can make things worse because people don't wake up [when their bladder is full]," she says.

As an alternative, cut down on caffeine so you sleep better on your own, Anger suggests.

"Sleeping pills are overprescribed," Appell tells WebMD. And if you already have incontinence, it can worsen the situation. "You wake up in a puddle," he says.

He encourages patients to look for alternatives to help them sleep. "If someone needs a little something to help them go to sleep, an antihistamine, like Benadryl, can be helpful," Appell says.

Paying attention to lifestyle can help, too. "Exercise so you will be tired," Appell suggests.

Sleep will come more easily if you keep a regular bedtime and wake-up schedule, according to the National Sleep Foundation. You can also develop a relaxing bedtime ritual, such as reading a book or listening to soothing music.

How to Talk About Urinary Incontinence

Bringing up the topic of urinary problems with your doctor or your spouse is never easy; most people are at least a bit embarrassed. But open communication can help you find out about the causes of incontinence and whether your medications may be contributing.

One good opener might be something like this: "I have been having bladder troubles."

If you will be visiting a new doctor, and have not yet selected him or her, you might seek out a doctor of the same sex, if you think that would help you feel more comfortable. Or, you might bring up the topic first with your doctor's nurse.

Preparing for the conversation about urinary incontinence may help you feel more in control. That means being able to answer the questions your doctor is likely to ask, including:

  • When did your urinary incontinence symptoms begin?
  • Have you had urinary incontinence symptoms before?
  • What medications are you on, and when did you start each of them?

You may find it easier to talk about incontinence if you acknowledge it as a medical condition that needs treatment, just as high blood pressure, arthritis, or high cholesterol does. Treatment options are plentiful, and nearly everyone can be helped so that symptoms, if they don't abate, improve.

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Reviewed on January 17, 2007

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