Over-the-counter medications to stop frequent urination
While most medications to treat an overactive bladder require a prescription, some OTC options may help people reduce the frequency of trips to the bathroom. These are commonly available as adhesive patches. Certain supplements may also help regulate bladder function.
Medication can help relax the bladder muscles, reducing the urgency to urinate and improving the inability to manage urination.
Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article uses the term “women” when discussing people assigned female at birth to reflect language that appears in source materials.
While gender is solely about how you identify yourself, independent of your physical body, you may need to consider how your personal circumstances will affect diagnosis, symptoms, and treatment. Learn more about the difference between sex and gender here.
Oxybutynin transdermal patches
Oxybutynin transdermal patches are an OTC medication that can help people with an OAB improve their symptoms. This is only available as an OTC drug for females, while a version for males is prescription only.
You typically need to apply oxybutynin transdermal patches twice a week and change it every 3–4 days. You also need to use these patches on the same 2 days every week. The medication delivers 3.9 milligrams (mg) of oxybutynin to your body.
Oxybutynin works by relaxing the bladder muscles. The contraction of the muscles in your bladder is typically the reason why you experience a sudden and frequent urgency to empty your bladder. Relaxing your bladder muscles can help reduce the symptoms of an OAB.
However, oxybutynin transdermal patches may cause side effects, including:
- dry mouth
- rash, itching, or burning sensation where applied
- upset stomach and abdominal cramping
- tiredness and drowsiness
- blurred vision
Certain supplements and herbs may help you naturally regulate your bladder. However, these may interact with other medications you may be taking. Before considering any supplements or herbs, speak with a doctor to understand if they can cause side effects with any of your other medications.
Supplements that may help with an OAB include:
An older 2004 study found that magnesium hydroxide supplementation could improve incontinence in women. However, these supplements can cause several side effects, including:
- abdominal cramping
L-arginine is an amino acid that helps your body create nitric oxide. This is a compound that plays an important role in keeping the lower urinary tract healthy and reducing the signals the bladder sends to empty it.
A 2017 study found that taking a supplement called Edicare, containing 115 mg of L-arginine, could help older adults with an OAB. Many L-arginine supplements are available, while several foods also contain this amino acid, including:
- dairy products
- soy protein
Always speak with a doctor before taking any L-arginine supplements. They may not be safe for people with certain underlying conditions, and they may interact with other medications.
Cleavers is an herb also known as “Galium aparine.” It has several medicinal benefits and can help with symptoms such as skin irritation.
A 2020 study found that cleavers can have anti-inflammatory effects and diuretic properties that may help improve the symptoms of an OAB. However, more research is necessary to confirm the beneficial effects of cleavers on bladder function.
Always speak with a doctor before using cleavers, as their side effects are not well-reported and may not be safe for you to use.
Pumpkin seed extract
Pumpkin seed extracts and oil are a natural treatment for OAB that can help improve incontinence.
A 2019 study found that supplements containing pumpkin seed extracts helped women improve their incontinence without reporting any significant side effects.
An older 2014 study stated that pumpkin seed oil may help prevent and improve the symptoms of an OAB and other disorders that involve the urinary system.
Researchers are currently further investigating the beneficial effects of pumpkin seed extracts and oils on an OAB.
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Prescription medications for OAB
Most medications for treating OAB are prescription only. Common examples can include:
- oxybutynin (Ditropan XL)
- solifenacin (Vesicare)
- tolterodine (Detrol)
- mirabegron (Myrbetriq)
- trospium (Sanctura XR)
If you aren’t finding any symptom relief from taking medications, a doctor may suggest a nonsurgical procedure such as peripheral tibial nerve stimulation. This involves stimulating the nerves connected to the bladder.
If you need help covering the cost of medications, the free Optum Perks Discount Card could help you save up to 80% on prescription drugs. Follow the links on drug names for savings on that medication, or search for a specific drug here.
What lifestyle measures can help?
Lifestyle measures can play an important role in the treatment of OAB. They may help provide some relief from OAB symptoms, which can sometimes be better than what medical treatment may provide.
If you have a high amount of sodium in your diet, decreasing it may help reduce the volume of urine you produce. It may also help to limit the amount of foods and drinks that have diuretic properties, in particular before bedtime, such as:
- caffeinated drinks
- fizzy drinks
- artificial sweeteners
- citrus fruit drinks
- tomato and tomato-based juices
To help reduce having to use the toilet, you may also consider reducing your fluid intake before bed or before doing any activity that prevents you from using the bathroom.
Bladder retraining may also help improve OAB symptoms. This involves increasing the length of time before you empty your bladder. This training can help gradually improve the amount of fluid your bladder can hold and reduce the sense of urgency that people with OAB may experience.
Pelvic floor muscle training is a method that can help decrease OAB symptoms in women. It involves repeating exercises that cause your pelvic muscles to contract and then relax. Examples include kegel exercises and vaginal weight training.
Doctors can recommend the most appropriate treatment and lifestyle measures to help improve your symptoms of an OAB.
When to speak with a doctor
Contact a doctor if you experience any difficulties in controlling your bladder and often feel an urgency to go to the toilet. Needing to urinate frequently may signal a urinary tract infection.
Doctors can diagnose the underlying cause of your symptoms and recommend the most appropriate treatment for your condition. It’s also important to speak with a doctor before starting any new supplementation.
Some OTC medications and supplements may help reduce the symptoms of an OAB and improve bladder control. However, making some lifestyle changes, such as avoiding diuretic drinks and foods and reducing salt intake, may help improve an OAB.
Bladder retraining exercises may also help decrease how often you need to urinate, increase the amount of liquids your bladder can hold, and reduce the urgency of emptying the bladder.
Download the free Optum Perks Discount Card to save up to 80% on some prescription medications.
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