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Last modified on November 11th, 2022
Oxybutynin side effects can vary depending on , factors including your age, the dose your take, your individual health, and more. The following provides an overview of everything you should know about oxybutynin’s side effects and this prescription medicine in general.
What Is Oxybutynin?
Oxybutynin is a generic drug prescribed for the treatment of an overactive bladder. Specifically, oxybutynin can help treat incontinence, which is a loss of bladder control or a frequent need to urinate.
Oxybutynin is an antispasmodic.
It works by decreasing bladder muscle spasms. In doing so, it reduces the urge to urinate triggered by the spasms.
Sometimes, an extended use version of oxybutynin is prescribed for children six and older who have an overactive bladder, usually caused by a nerve disorder like spina bifida.
Brand names of oxybutynin are Ditropan and Ditropan XL.
Oxybutynin is prescribed as a tablet, a syrup, and an extended-release tablet.
It’s also referred to as oxybutynin chloride.
What is Overactive Bladder (OAB)?
Oxybutynin is a treatment for overactive bladder.
There are three primary symptoms or three groups that symptoms usually fall into.
There’s urgency, which is the key symptom of OAB. Urgency means having a sudden, strong need to urinate without being able to wait.
Frequency is another symptom. The average person might urinate anywhere from six to eight times a day and once in the night. If you have OAB, you might find that you urinate more than eight times a day and two or more times a night.
There’s also incontinence, which is the involuntary loss of bladder control that can lead to leakage.
When you initially see a doctor with any of these symptoms, they will first want to do a series of tests to rule out other possible underlying causes, such as a urinary tract infection. Then, your doctor might go over some lifestyle changes you could make or alternative remedies.
Beyond that, there are second-line treatments that can include medicines like oxybutynin.
If medicines don’t work, a third-line treatment that might be considered is called neuromodulation, which is a way to alter nerve activity. Surgery can also be considered.
Overactive bladder can be caused by an underlying disorder such as diabetes, kidney disease, Parkinson’s, or multiple sclerosis. It can also be associated with surgery or childbirth, and in some cases, no reason can be identified.
Serious Oxybutynin Side Effects
First, before delving into a little more about the common side effects of oxybutynin, the medicine comes with a couple of serious warnings.
There is a swelling warning that’s listed as an oxybutynin side effect. Oxybutynin can cause swelling around your eyes, genitals, hands, or feet, known as angioedema. This is an allergic reaction. If you experience this oxybutynin side effect, seek emergency care right away.
Oxybutynin may affect your central nervous system, and that can lead to side effects like:
You’re most likely to experience these side effects of oxybutynin during the first few months you take the medicine. If you have these oxybutynin side effects, you should speak to your doctor. They might want to reduce your dosage or take you off the drug.
One of the oxybutynin side effects to be aware of is an increased risk of depression.
This overactive bladder medicine comes with a drowsiness warning. Don’t try to drive or operate machinery while you’re on this medicine, or at least until you know how it affects you.
Other more common side effects of oxybutynin can include:
- An inability to urinate
- Dry mouth
- Blurry vision
- Sleep problems
Also possible with oxybutynin are:
- Sour stomach
- Runny nose
- Blurred vision
- Decreased sexual ability
- Feelings of warmth or heat
- Increased light sensitivity
You may experience less sweating than normal when you start taking oxybutynin. This can increase your risk of heat stroke or overheating if you live somewhere hot.
For most people, these common oxybutynin side effects are mild, if they occur at all. They usually go away a few days or weeks after you start the medicine. If they’re interfering with your life or don’t go away, talk to your doctor.
As with most medicines, it is possible to accidentally overdose on oxybutynin. Symptoms of an overdose can include:
- Severe drowsiness
- Changes in heartbeat
- Trouble breathing
- Unusual restlessness or irritability
Does Oxybutynin Interact with Other Medicines?
A big thing to consider when it comes to oxybutynin chloride side effects is that the risk of them occurring is increased when you’re taking anything else. This includes not only prescription medicines but also herbs or vitamins and over-the-counter medicines.
Before your doctor prescribes you oxybutynin, you should tell them about everything you take, including anything that’s over the counter.
Medicines that might interact and cause more serious oxybutynin side effects are:
- Anti-depressants: Oxybutynin can affect how your body absorbs anti-depressants, so you may have an increased risk of side effects. Two specific depression drugs with the potential to interact with oxybutynin are amitriptyline and nortriptyline.
- Allergy drugs: Diphenhydramine and chlorpheniramine are two medicines that could cause side effects of oxybutynin when they’re combined.
- Anti-psychotics: Oxybutynin may affect the absorption of anti-psychotics and increase the risk of side effects. Specific anti-psychotics that could interact with oxybutynin are chlorpromazine and thioridazine.
- Anti-fungal drugs: Anti-fungals that can increase the amount of oxybutynin in someone’s body include itraconazole and ketoconazole.
- Dementia medicines: If you take certain dementia drugs, oxybutynin can worsen your symptoms. Specifically, these medicines are known as cholinesterase inhibitors.
As well as side effects of oxybutynin, the following are some warnings to be aware of:
- You should avoid drinking alcohol when taking oxybutynin because it can increase side effects like dizziness or drowsiness. Alcohol can also make overactive bladder worse.
- Talk to your doctor if you have autonomic neuropathy because oxybutynin can worsen stomach problems.
- If you have bladder outlet obstruction, taking oxybutynin may increase the risk of not being able to empty your bladder.
- If you have a history of certain stomach problems like ulcerative colitis or reflux, oxybutynin can worsen these.
- For someone with myasthenia graves, oxybutynin can make symptoms worse.
Oxybutynin Side Effects in Elderly People
While the side effects are generally the same for people of any age who take oxybutynin, some people wonder if taking this medicine for overactive bladder can cause harm to your cognitive health.
Overactive bladder affects around 30% of people over the age of 65.
There is some research that shows that oxybutynin could increase the risk of dementia and may be harmful to cognitive health.
For example, there was a small clinical trial. The trial included 12 people with an average age of 69. They took oxybutynin for six weeks, and it led to significant decreases in 7 of 15 cognitive measures.
An observational study found that oxybutynin was linked with more than a two-time increased risk of dementia in people with diabetes, compared to people who didn’t take the medicine.
With that being said, the evidence is mixed.
There was another study of participants in a nursing home that didn’t find any relationship between oxybutynin and cognitive impairment.
Not all medicines for overactive bladder seem to carry the same risk of cognitive effects, perhaps because they don’t reach the brain in the same way as oxybutynin.
If you are concerned about the side effects of oxybutynin, particularly oxybutynin side effects in elderly people, it’s a conversation to have with your doctor.
Your doctor may be able to recommend an alternative for overactive bladder that has less of a cognitive risk.
How Does Oxybutynin Work?
Oxybutynin works by preventing bladder spasms. It can help reduce episodes of incontinence or the urgency that these spasms can cause.
There are other medications available that can help reduce incontinence and can improve bladder control, and they usually fall into the category of antimuscarinic or anticholinergic drugs.
These medicines work by relaxing bladder muscles, which is what reduces the number of contractions on the bladder wall.
All medicines, including oxybutynin, have the potential for side effects, and you should follow your doctor’s instructions carefully. It can also take several weeks for these medicines to work.
If you experience oxybutynin side effects, you should talk to your doctor. They might decide to lower your dose or perhaps change you to another medicine.
Are There Natural Solutions for Overactive Bladder?
If you are struggling with overactive bladder or a similar condition, before dealing with possible oxybutynin symptoms, you might want to explore natural options. This is something you should only do after consulting with your doctor. Just like there are oxybutynin side effects to be aware of, there are also side effects of natural supplements. Supplements can interfere with other medicines you take too.
If you do want to discuss a few options for your doctor, you might think about the following:
- Gosha-jinki-gan: This is a blend of 10 Chinese herbs from traditional medicine. There’s some evidence this blend may have positive effects on bladder contraction.
- Ganoderma licidum: This is an herbal extract that in one study was found to help improve urinary tract symptoms in men.
- Vitamin D: There was a study in 2010 that found higher levels of vitamin D were linked with a lower risk of pelvic floor disorders in women, such as bladder leaking. There was a separate study that found a relationship between low vitamin D and bladder leakage episodes in older adults.
- Pumpkin seed extract: This has been found to be helpful for overactive bladder and nighttime urination.
- Capsaicin: This is derived from chili peppers, and there’s some evidence it may be helpful for sensitive and overactive bladders.
Oxybutynin side effects tend to be mild for most people. Common oxybutynin side effects might include dizziness, drowsiness, or a reduced ability to sweat. For some people, the side effects of oxybutynin can be more severe and may include an allergic reaction or an increased risk of cognitive effects and perhaps dementia.
If you are experiencing oxybutynin side effects, or you’re worried that you might if you take the medicine, talk to your doctor about these concerns.