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Two Common Treatments for Urinary Incontinence Are Both Effective, But Have Different Side Effects

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Urinary incontinence is a common problem in women of all ages and can occur at various times, including during exercise, pregnancy, and menopause. About one-half of adult women say they have had urine leakage at one time or another. For some women, embarrassment causes them to restrict their activities, meaning urinary incontinence can have a major impact on quality of life. 

Scientists in the Pelvic Floor Disorders Network (PFDN), which is funded through the Gynecological Health and Disease Branch, compared two commonly used treatments for female urinary incontinence: a prescription drug taken as a pill, and a form of Botox taken by injection. Researchers gave women with urinary incontinence both pills and injections. For one-half of the women, the pills were real and the injections were fake; for the other half of the women, the opposite was true. Because neither the women nor the physicians knew which treatment they were really receiving, the researchers could minimize the chance that the results would be biased. 

The study findings showed that over 6 months, both treatments were about equally effective at decreasing episodes of urinary incontinence. The treatments had different side effects, however. The oral medication was more likely to be associated with dry mouth, while the injectable medication was more likely to lead to urinary tract infections.

Women and their physicians can choose the treatment that is best, taking into account both how the medication is administered and the risks of side effects (PMID: 23036134). 

Last Reviewed: 05/01/2014
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