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Bladder Control Medicines

Medicines for bladder control generally work by blocking signals that may cause muscle spasms in the bladder. A group of drugs called antispasmodics are usually the first drugs your doctor will consider for treating bladder control problems. Another group of medicines, called tricyclic antidepressants, may be considered, although these drugs are primarily intended to treat depression. Tricyclic antidepressants can calm nerve signals and decrease spasms in the bladder muscles.


Other Names for This Medicine
Brand Name Generic Name
Detrol tolterodine
Ditropan oxybutynin chloride
Enablex darifenacin
Levsin hyoscyamine
Sanctura trospium chloride
VESIcare solifenacin succinate

Extended-release forms of oxybutynin and tolterodine are now available.

Brand Name Generic Name
Detrol LA tolterodine extended release
Ditropan XL oxybutynin extended release

Oxybutynin also comes in a patch that may decrease the side effects.

Brand Name Generic Name
Oxytrol oxybutynin patch delivery system

Side effects. Antispasmodics can cause your eyes to become sensitive to light. These medicines also keep you from sweating and can cause dry mouth. If you take any of these medicines, you may need to take a few steps to deal with side effects.

  • Wear sunglasses if your eyes become more sensitive to light.
  • Take care not to become overheated.
  • Chew gum or suck on sugarless hard candy to avoid dry mouth.

Tricyclic Antidepressants

Other Names for This Medicine
Brand Name Generic Name
Elavil amitriptyline
Pamelor nortriptyline
Sinequan doxepin
Tofranil imipramine

Side effects. Tricyclic antidepressants can cause your vision to blur when you read, dry mouth, constipation, and light-headedness when you stand after sitting.


Other Names for This Medicine
Brand Name Generic Name
DDAVP desmopressin
DDAVP Nasal Spray desmopressin
DDAVP Rhinal Tube desmopressin
DDVP desmopressin
Stimate Nasal Spray desmopressin

Desmopressin is a man-made form of a natural hormone that your body makes. The hormone, called antidiuretic hormone (ADH) or vasopressin, directs the kidneys to make less urine. The urine is therefore more concentrated. Desmopressin is not usually prescribed for adult women with overactive bladder or stress incontinence. It is more often used to treat bedwetting in children. It is also used to treat a condition called diabetes insipidus.

Side effects. Desmopressin rarely causes side effects, but you should call your doctor if you have headaches, stomach cramps, nausea, reddening of the skin, a stuffy or runny nose, or pain in the genital area.

Interstitial Cystitis Medicine

Other Names for This Medicine
Brand Name Generic Name
Elmiron pentosan polysulfate sodium

Pentosan is approved to treat the symptoms of bladder pain, urinary frequency, and urinary urgency that characterize interstitial cystitis, also known as painful bladder syndrome. Doctors do not know exactly how it works, but one theory is that it may repair defects that might have developed in the lining of the bladder.

Side effects. Pentosan's side effects are limited primarily to minor gastrointestinal discomfort. A small minority of patients experience some hair loss, but hair grows back when they stop taking the drug. Researchers have found no negative interactions between pentosan and other medications.

Your doctor will order regular blood tests to monitor your liver function while you take pentosan.

Because pentosan has not been tested in pregnant women, the manufacturer recommends that it not be used during pregnancy, except in the most severe cases.

Last Reviewed April 2014
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This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.