Another treatment option is medication, as seen in those “gotta go” television ads. The drugs in those ads are for treating overactive bladder, or urge incontinence, says George Benson, M.D., a urologist in the FDA’s Division of Reproductive and Urologic Drug Products. No drugs are approved for stress incontinence.
For many years, only two drugs were approved to treat overactive bladder: Detrol (tolterodine tartrate) and Ditropan (oxybutynin chloride). In 2004, the FDA approved three more drugs: Sanctura (trospium chloride), Enablex (darifenacin), and Vesicare (solifenacin succinate). All of these medications come in pill form, and oxybutynin is also available as a skin patch.
“All five drugs work in essentially the same way to decrease urgency, frequency, and urge incontinence,” says Benson. “They block the nerve impulses to the bladder that cause it to contract and leak.” Side effects of the drugs include dry mouth, constipation, headache, and blurred vision.
Other drugs called alpha-blockers and 5-alpha reductase inhibitors may be prescribed for men with incontinence problems due to an enlarged prostate. Alpha-blockers relax the prostate and bladder neck, allowing improved urine flow; 5-alpha reductase inhibitors hinder the production of a male hormone believed to be responsible for prostate enlargement.