Incontinence? These Medications Can Help

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Not only is incontinence embarrassing; it can be highly -- well, inconvenient. And unfortunately, bladder control therapy and pelvic floor exercises don't work for everyone. No surprise, then, that although some medications can trigger incontinence, there's plenty of interest in medications that increase bladder control. Here are the medications for incontinence that most doctors and patients turn to first.


How they work: These drugs block the chemical messenger that triggers involuntary contractions of the bladder, preventing bladder spasms and holding off the urge to go.

Brand names:

  • Vesicare (generic: solifenacin)

  • Ditropan, Gelnique, Oxytrol (generic: oxybutynin)

  • Detrol (generic: tolterodine)

  • Enablex (generic: darifenacin)

  • Sanctura (generic: trospium)

  • Toviaz (generic: fesoterodine)

  • Flavoxate (generic: flavoxate hydrochloride)

  • Pro-Banthine (generic: propantheline)

Best for: Overactive bladder, urge incontinence, stress incontinence

Tips: Many of these drugs are now available in an extended-release form, allowing you to take them just once a day. Extended-release formulations tend to have fewer side effects, and some patients find them more effective. Oxybutynin is now available in two topical forms, the Gelnique gel and the Oxytrol patch, which, according to some studies, can be easier to tolerate than oral medications.


How it works: This female hormone plays a central role in maintaining the elasticity and flexibility of tissues. The drop in estrogen levels during menopause leads to deterioration of the strength and flexibility of the muscles and tissues of the bladder and urethra. Topical estrogen applied via a low-dose estrogen cream, tablet, slow-release patch, or ring releases estrogen directly into the vaginal and urethral tissues.

Brand names:

  • Climara - patch

  • Premarin and Estrace - cream

  • Estring, Femring "“ vaginal ring

  • Vagifem -- tablet (generic: estradiol, estriol, estrone)

Best for: Menopause-related stress incontinence and urge incontinence

Tips: Topical estrogen, in the form of a cream, patch, or vaginal ring is the best way to treat menopause-related incontinence. Oral estrogen is less effective, and some women find it makes incontinence symptoms worse. Combination hormone therapy (estrogen and progesterone) is likewise not effective for incontinence, experts say.

Certain tricyclic antidepressants

How it works: A couple of tricyclic antidepressants have been found in studies to prevent incontinence by preventing contractions of the smooth muscles of the bladder.

Brand names:

  • Tofranil (generic: imipramine)

  • Sinequan (generic: doxepin)

Best for: Overactive bladder, urge incontinence

Tips: These antidepressant medications can also affect mood and cause fatigue and sleepiness, so you have to balance the positive effects on bladder control against other effects they may have on you.

Melanie Haiken

Melanie Haiken discovered how important it is to provide accurate, targeted, usable health information to people facing difficult decisions when she was health editor of Parenting magazine. See full bio

6 months, said...

I've never found a website like this one & I'm a forever convert !!! - The comments & info on this site is unbelievable - All I can think of reading all the content & comments about incontinence is "WHY DIDN'T MY DOCTOR TELL ME ALL THIS INFORMATION??????????" - I'm printing EVERYTHING I think will make him feel STUPID - I'm so mad right now - He should have told me about medications that could cause incontinence ... and ways to do something about it ... and that pelvic workouts don't work for everyone ... and ... and ... and ... - For 3 years now I've been fighting this (all of a sudden) problem, lately trying to find ways, etc. even to the most recent decision of going to a chiropractor to see if it's a pinched nerve that he can unpinch by twisting me in knots - I told my family doc about it & he said, "well, let's not go that way just yet" & prescribing me Oxybutynin which doesn't help at all - I even searched on Google for the uriologist closest to my zip code - You see, now my bowels are doing the same thing as my bladder - I'm now a shut-in & I can't stand it - I can live with Fybromyalgia, but not bladder & bowels that make their own decisions - Thank you everyone for all the comments left here & I will be back, hopefully to have a diaper sale (I'm kidding) cuz I have boxes of about 32 different kinds & different shapes & sizes - haha - I will be back & give you my progress on the tips I followed from all of you wonderful people - God bless you guys, monica >^..^< ;)

almost 2 years, said...

I have night time incontinence. I have tried both Detrol LA and Myrbetric. Neither medication has helped at all, with the exception of making it hard for me to go during the daytime! But as soon as I go to sleep I know by morning I will have urinated sometime during the night. The only thing these meds have done is making it hard to go during the day! Does anyone have my problem and can offer some advice?

over 2 years, said...

Has Estrace cream actually helped anyone with incontinence? I was just prescribed estrogen cream and want to know.

over 3 years, said...

I don't know if this is the whole answer, but, well, I've never been a drug-for-everything follower, since becoming a widower I've had more control of my diet and have tended to have "something of everything" at every meal instead of the meat-and 2-veg meals of earlier years. I had a bit of incontinence trouble but learned to live with it - then to my amazement, after buying a Chinese Shop item "Tamarind" I found that my nightly visits to the loo were much reduced. I now take a chocolate square sized bite every four hours while awake - and sleep all night! I had previously tried Saw Palmeta" and was disappointed, but Tamarind has done the job. I strongly suggest that the Tamarind is bought from the Chinese shop (I have no monetary connection) because Supermarkets have the daft idea of boiling - and spoiling Tamarind = as they do with almost everything else. I'm not claiming a miracle, or that it will work for everyone but suggest that anyone with the problem gives it a try. I would appreciate feedback on this to get a broader picture.

over 6 years, said...

Hello I pee a lot 2, Hello, Thank you for your comment. We appreciate that you've taken the time to send us this feedback. It's very helpful for us to know how caregivers and the public are responding to the information and resources we offer on our website. I've passed on your comments to our editorial team for their consideration. Thanks again for sharing! Best regards -- Emily | Community Manager

over 6 years, said...

I am a male with a incontinence problem, It seems to me after reading your answers, you think males dont count.

over 6 years, said...

Has anyone tried Quercitin as I suggested? Just curious as it works beautifully, unless there are other problems.

over 6 years, said...

It was very informitive Thank 's

over 6 years, said...

Try Quercitin for incontinence - you can take two 500 mg. per day. One in the morning and one in the afternoon. It works great for most people. There are also homeopathic also. You can buy in a "good" health food store. I just don't like drugs as they have so many side effects.

almost 7 years, said...


almost 7 years, said...

this article is very helpful. we need more articles like this one that will help explain to us what we need to do and helpful to us. doctors are sometimes not so helpful to tell us the real thing, and let us go back and forth to them. patients suffer so much...

almost 7 years, said...

Many years ago, I was prescribed Tofranil as an antidepressant- what the doctor DIDN'T tell me was that I would not feel when I needed to pass water- in fact, I felt that I couldn't- the result of this was that I was straining to urinate- not a terribly good thing to do......I only found out about its side effects years later,if I had known, I wouldn't have worried myself sick about it!

almost 7 years, said...

My parents family physician gave my elderly mother, 83 yrs. old, Detrol. By turning off the sensation or urge to go urinate she retained urine and became ill. The Dr. NEVER checked for urine retention which amazes me in itself. By retaining urine it can back up into your kidneys and cause numerous problems. Once discovered they said she would have to remain on a catheter for the rest of her life. That was not acceptable for us. After months of effort on her daughters and caregivers part she is successfully off the catheter and off the medication. Dr.'s have a tendency to just give pills, try everything else first as the side effects usually out weigh the benefits in a negative mannor and seniors are so trusting and not as aware of their bodies as they once were.

almost 7 years, said...

Yes it was a good article. There were a lot of things I didn't know including medications you can take. I will start to do pelvic floor exercises, etc more often to strengthen them and also to help strengthen the deep abdominal muscles more post surgery there x2. It is something that is very embarrassing for women I think of all ages who suffer this problem, especially during sex and we try to forgot about it at other times & not go for help. After reading this article I think I will now talk to my doctor about it. Thank you very much for the useful information.