Updated 31 January 2018

Common medicines tied to urinary incontinence

An apparent association between some common medications, including antihistamines and urinary incontinence suggests a need for further study.

An apparent association between some common medications, including antihistamines and angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs), and urinary incontinence (UI) suggests a need for further study, researchers say.

Dr Susan A. Hall of the New England Research Institutes, Watertown, Massachusetts, lead author of a report online in the Journal of Urology, said that her team found some associations that were not previously documented. But, she added, the cross-sectional design of the research can't prove causality.

How the study was done

The population-based epidemiological study involved more than 5 500 men and women aged 30 to 79 years. Nine percent of women and 4.6% of men had urinary incontinence – and these individuals were significantly older than those without such symptoms.

The prevalence of UI was then examined in users of 25 medication groups after adjustments for known urinary incontinence risk factors. For women, the prevalence was highest among users of antihistamines (28.4%) and ARBs (22.9%). In men, the prevalence of UI was highest among users of ARBs (22.2%), followed by loop diuretics (19.1%).

UI odds ratios of more than 1.7 were established for women using certain antihistamines (OR 1.75), beta receptor agonists (OR 1.73), ARBs (OR 2.07), estrogens (OR 1.90) and anticonvulsants (OR 1.75).

Among men only anticonvulsants were associated with urinary incontinence after final adjustments (OR 2.5). ARBs showed an adjusted association of borderline significance. "Future epidemiologic studies," Dr Hall concluded, "should consider whether new use of these drugs is associated with incident incontinence."

(Reuters Health, David Douglas, June 2012)


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Dr Prenevin Govender completed his MBChB at the University of Cape Town in 2001. He obtained his Fellowship of the College of Urologists in 2009 and graduated with distinction for a Masters in Medicine from the University of Cape Town in 2010. His special interests include laparoscopic, pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence surgery. He consults full-time at Life Kingsbury Hospital in Claremont.

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