Q. I read in your column that Detrol might have a negative impact on memory. Both my sister and I have been complaining about memory problems since we started taking it for overactive bladder problems.

I phoned my doctor’s office about this issue and was told they have never heard about this reaction at all. Why are doctors not aware of this side effect?

A. Modern medicine is highly compartmentalized. Specialists in one area may not always be aware of developments in another field. That might explain why a urologist could be unaware of the cognitive impact of certain bladder medicines. The FDA has not required drug companies to highlight this complication.

There is increasing evidence, though, that drugs that affect the activity of the brain chemical acetylcholine can impair cognitive function, especially in older people (Neurological Sciences, online, Feb. 20, 2009). Medications like Detrol and Ditropan can cause dry mouth and constipation as well as confusion, disorientation and hallucinations.

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  1. Tim

    Thank you for helping to spread the word that anti-cholinergic medications can often have cognitive deficits in the elderly.
    As an Occupational Therapist who is a consultant for seniors, I find that many physicians who do not specialize in geriatric care, often do not take the time to research the meds they prescribe, and the possible side affects and interactions with other meds, that other physicians may also be prescribing.

  2. SW

    The older I got the more I had an irritable bladder and stress incontinence, sometimes worse than others. Also, up in the middle of the night at least once and upto 3 times a night (a real sleep destroyer).
    I finally figured out that I have celiac condition and finally after 6 months away from eating wheat products, I no longer have all these bladder issues. Rather than taking drugs, I would investigate food issues.

  3. Russ

    I have irritable bladder at night. If I eat 6 medium brazil nuts before bedtime, my bladder irritation is essentially eliminated.
    Hope this helps. Russ

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