White pills against a white background.
There is only one FDA-approved OTC medication on the market for OAB: oxybutynin.

Overactive Bladder Medication Over the Counter

When you are suffering from overactive bladder (OAB), it can be easy to run to the drugstore or your local supermarket to look for a quick solution. But does the easiest option mean it will be effective? In this article we will explore overactive bladder medication that is over the counter to see if it is an effective treatment option.

Over-the-counter overactive bladder medications are an easy option, but they might not work for everyone. Symptoms often vary between people, and depending on what you experience, speaking with a doctor and getting a prescription may be a better option.

What Are Over-the-Counter Medications?

Over-the-counter medications, also known as OTC medications, are medications that are thought to be reasonably safe to the general public, without seeking advice of a medical professional.

There are over 80 categories of OTC medications, with some of the most common being pain medications, cold medications, and antihistamines. OTC medications can be found in various locations, such as drugstores, pharmacies, and even gas stations and convenience stores.

It is important to note that just because a medication is OTC, it is not always safe to use. Each medication may carry a risk of side effects, as well as drug interactions with other medications prescribed.

How Can Over-the-Counter Medications Treat Overactive Bladder?

Most medications that are used to treat OAB symptoms have an anticholinergic effect. This means they are believed to inhibit the involuntary contractions that make OAB symptoms so uncomfortable.

Most OAB medications are prescription and have an anticholinergic effect. There is an OTC option available; this also has an anticholinergic effect.

Overactive Bladder Symptoms

You may seek treatment for OAB without consultation with a healthcare provider because the symptoms are so troublesome. Even with OTC options available, you should speak to your healthcare provider about the best treatment for you.

Common symptoms for OAB include:

  • A sudden urge to urinate that may be difficult to control
  • Waking up more than twice overnight to urinate
  • Urgency incontinence (loss of control that occurs after the urge to urinate)
  • Frequent urination, occurring eight or more times in a 24-hour period

Which Over-the-Counter Medications Treat Overactive Bladder Symptoms?

The only FDA-approved OTC medication to treat OAB is oxybutynin. This medication is available as a patch that delivers 3.9 milligrams of the medication daily.

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The OTC patch is called Oxytrol for Women and it is applied every four days. Men with OAB also have an Oxytrol patch available, but it is only available via prescription.

Common side effects of Oxytrol for Women can include:

  • Skin irritation
  • Sleepiness
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Blurry vision
  • Hallucinations
  • Dry mouth and eyes
  • Constipation

Though troublesome, some of these symptoms can be managed. For example, for dry eyes, artificial tears may be used. For dry mouth, sucking on hard candies may relieve mouth dryness. For constipation, consuming a high-fiber diet and adequate water intake can improve the quality of bowel movements.

Herbal Supplements to Treat OAB

Various herbal supplements, available at many pharmacies or online, may help improve OAB symptoms. Though many have been used for years, there is little research to back the efficacy of these treatments. They include:

  • Green tea extract: There are no human studies performed to date to prove green tea extracts work. However, a study on rats indicate that rats treated with green tea catechins had fewer bladder contractions than rats without the treatment when recovering from removal of ovaries as a treatment for bladder damage.
  • Gosha-jinki-gan: A combination of 10 Asian herbs is said to reduce urinary frequency. A small study – 44 women in Japan – demonstrated this when taking 7.5 milligrams of this supplement for eight weeks. However, this study has yet to be replicated on a large scale.
  • Buchu: A flowering plant that is native to South Africa, buchu supposedly heals a variety of medical conditions. There are no studies that indicate that buchu (specifically buchu tea) helps to ease OAB symptoms, but buchu tea is caffeine-free. Perhaps swapping buchu tea for coffee may ease symptoms as caffeine can exacerbate symptoms.
  • Hachimi-jio-gan: Similar to gosha-jinki-gan, hachimi-jio-gan (or HE for short) is a combination of Asian herbs. HE contains several of the same herbs as gosha-jinki-gan. A small-scale Japanese study performed on rats indicated that this supplement reduced bladder contractions prompted by acetylcholine.

While some of these may be helpful, you might able be wondering what herbs do not work.

Though touted by many people as a miracle cure for urinary tract health, cranberry may exacerbate symptoms of OAB. Cranberries are highly acidic, which can worsen already present symptoms. In addition, according to Healthline, “Cranberries may change the way bacteria adheres to the bladder in a urinary tract infection, but bacteria isn’t involved in involuntary contractions that cause OAB.” You should avoid consuming cranberry as a beverage or a supplement.

Horsetail should also be avoided. This herb has a mild diuretic effect. As such, this increases urine flow, which can promote increased urination.

The Bottom Line…

When pursuing treatment for OAB, whether OTC or prescription, you should speak to your healthcare provider. There are various options available, and some are available right on your pharmacy shelves.