Medical therapies

Different medications treat different types of incontinence. Once you know your diagnosis, you can find out more about what is available.

Who is it for?

What does it involve?

Anticholinergics are one type of medicine that is often used to treat an overactive bladder (OAB) in both males and females. It works by blocking acetylcholine, a chemical that signals for muscles in the bladder wall to contract. The most recent versions of these medications only need to be taken once a day, or can even be applied twice-weekly as a patch. Side effects include constipation, dry mouth, and blurred vision.

Oestrogen is an important hormone for keeping the urethra strong and healthy. After menopause, a drop in this hormone can sometimes contribute to incontinence in females. Oestrogen can be applied as a vaginal cream, taken as a tablet, or inserted as a ring. In this way, it can help to improve symptoms of urge and/or stress incontinence. Since there is not a huge amount of evidence to prove the effectiveness of oestrogen in treating female incontinence, your healthcare professional may prescribe this in conjunction with a behavioural/psychological treatment.

Desmopressin works whilst you sleep, by stopping the production of urine that might cause bedwetting or nocturnal enuresis. You can use it in the form of a nasal spray or as a tablet.

Fibre supplements are available in many different formats, and can be helpful for increasing the level of fibre in your diet. Some are sprinkled on food or dissolved in water, whereas others are taken in a pill form.

Antidiarrheal drugs can help slow down your digestive system, to avoid diarrhoea. You can usually take this medicine alongside other treatments.

Laxatives and stool softeners can help with short-term symptoms of constipation. However, they should not be used as regularly as they may actually worsen incontinence.

medical treatments

How can I find out more?

The majority of the medications for incontinence (except some for bowel incontinence), need to be prescribed by a healthcare professional. In the cases of fibre supplements, laxative and stool softeners, these can usually be obtained over the counter from a pharmacist. Whatever the case, it is recommended that you consult your doctor before starting new medication regime.

Depending on where you live, these medications may be free from a clinic or on prescription, or may need to be paid for.


European Guidelines on Urinary Incontinence [Internet]. 2018 [cited 18 August 2020]. Available from:

Bladder Control Problems (Urinary Incontinence) [Internet]. 2018 [cited 18 August 2020]. Available from: