What to Know About Medications That Help Control Incontinence

Roughly 1 out of every 3 Americans suffer from bladder leakage or urinary incontinence, according to the Urology Care Foundation. That means that every day, millions of Americans deal with annoying, embarrassing symptoms that can interfere with even the simplest activities, like going to the store or visiting with friends.

Fortunately, treatments can help, including medications focused on relieving symptoms and preventing bladder leakage. In this post, Alfred Shtainer, MD, FACS, and the team at Adult and Pediatric Urology offer a quick overview of urinary incontinence and the medicines that could help you lead a more relaxed, comfortable life.

Bladder leakage 101

Urinary incontinence becomes more common with age, and it also tends to affect women a lot more often than men. That’s probably due in part to an age-related decline in estrogen and pelvic muscle weakening due to pregnancy and childbearing.

The three main types of urinary incontinence include:

Stress incontinence

Stress incontinence is the most common type of urinary incontinence, causing urine leakage when you laugh, sneeze, or perform strenuous physical activity. 

Overactive bladder

Also called urge incontinence, an overactive bladder is linked with frequent urges to urinate, even when the bladder isn’t full. 

Mixed incontinence

Mixed incontinence involves symptoms of both stress incontinence and overactive bladder.

While severe urinary incontinence may require surgery to correct, mild to moderate symptoms often can be managed conservatively with weight loss, dietary changes, and bladder training.

Medication can also play an important role in conservative management, relieving symptoms sufficiently to avoid surgery and restore a better quality of life.

Medications that can help

The type of medication you’ll need is based on the type of incontinence you have and other factors.


Also called anticholinergics, these medicines help prevent bladder spasms that can trigger incontinence symptoms, particularly in people with overactive bladder. Anticholinergics work by blocking a chemical messenger that triggers bladder muscle contractions, making you feel like you need to urinate even when your bladder is empty.

Alpha-adrenergic agonists

Also called alpha agonists, these medications target specific chemical receptors in the neck portion of the bladder and the urethra, increasing muscle tone and improving urinary control. These medications can be especially helpful in managing mild to moderate stress incontinence.

Beta-3 agonists

Also called Beta-3 adrenergic receptor agonists, these medicines relax the muscles in the bladder wall, effectively increasing the size of the bladder. Beta-3 agonists are most often used to treat overactive bladder, reducing symptoms of urgency, urinary frequency, and urine leakage.


Many women develop urinary incontinence once they reach menopause due to decreasing levels of the hormone estrogen. For these women, estrogen medications may help, activating chemical responses that improve pelvic muscle control and reduce symptoms of stress incontinence. 

Find a solution for your incontinence symptoms

Medications can play an important role in managing urinary incontinence, especially when coupled with healthy lifestyle changes, bladder training, and pelvic floor exercises. Our team will work with you to develop a treatment plan that works for your needs.

Don’t let your urinary incontinence symptoms keep you from getting the most out of your life. To learn how we can help, request an appointment online or over the phone with Dr. Shtainer and the team at Adult and Pediatric Urology in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, New York, today.

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