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Can your bladder medication cause dementia?

What is Overactive Bladder?

Millions of Americans deal with a condition called overactive bladder (OAB).  Symptoms can include the sudden uncomfortable urge to urinate, going to the bathroom too frequently, and even leakage of urine (for more information about Overactive Bladder go to https://geoffnussmd.com/services/overactive-bladder/).  Over the past 20 years or so, drug companies developed medications aimed to help control symptoms of OAB.  The most common class of medications used to treat overactive bladder are called “anticholinergics.”  These pills help relax the bladder muscle and provide relief.

One of the bad things about medications for OAB is that you have to continue taking them to continue to have relief of your symptoms.  In other words, these pills do not work like an antibiotic. you cant take them for a week or two weeks and then be cured.  Also, they can have unpleasant side effect including dry mouth and constipation.

Dementia from a medication?

To make matters worse, new research shows that long term use of anticholinergic medications may make you more likely to get dementia.  In a large study, doctors found that women and men over the age of 55 taking anticholinergic medication regularly for over a year were more likely to develop dementia than people who did not.  ( You can read more at https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2736353 and https://time.com/5614803/anticholinergic-drugs-dementia-risk )  While the results are not definitive, they are concerning.  We doctors usually consider medications as low risk ways to make people better, but we don’t always know all the bad side effects that medications can cause.

Do the risks outweigh the benefits?

Anticholinergic medications are good for treating OAB, but I have to say that this new research makes me concerned.  I know that medication can help and may be the right choice for many of my patients, but I also want my patients to know that there are other good alternatives to medications for treating overactive bladder. Many of these are new and exciting ways that can even give patients freedom from needing medications.

The bottom line is that if you are taking medications for overactive bladder or you think you might have overactive bladder and want to learn about all the options for you, don’t hesitate to come in to see me so that we can find a treatment plan that works for you!