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Overactive Bladder Drugs Have Scary Cognitive Effects

Drugs used to treat overactive bladder may lead to confusion and memory problems, particularly in vulnerable older people.

Overactive bladder is inconvenient, uncomfortable and sometimes messy. Unfortunately, the drugs that are often used to control overactive bladder can sometimes be even messier. By that, we mean that the desired effect of having to urinate less often and less urgently is accompanied by a range of other predictable but much less desirable effects. This reader made a decision to avoid the side effects:

Q. I have lost track of the various drugs I have taken for bladder control over the years. Most made my eyes dry.

The Most Distressing Side Effect of Overactive Bladder Drugs:

The worst side effect for me has been the “clouding” of my brain with mental sluggishness and sleepiness that they all cause. I end up preferring the discomfort of wearing pads to coping with a decreased ability to focus, reason and respond.

A. Many of the medications prescribed for overactive bladder work by blocking the neurochemical acetylcholine, which is essential for learning and memory. The most common side effects of these anticholinergic drugs are dry mouth, eyes and nose, constipation, dizziness, drowsiness, difficult urination, confusion, memory problems, decreased sweating and visual difficulties.

We have written about other anticholinergic drugs and their impact on cognitive function here.

Drugs for Overactive Bladder:

  • darifenacin (Enablex)
  • fesoterodine (Toviaz)
  • mirabegron (Myrbetriq)
  • oxybutynin (Ditropan, Gelnique, Oxytrol)
  • solifenacin (Vesicare)
  • tolterodine (Detrol)
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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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