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What is Oxybutynin?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Feb 27, 2024
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Oxybutynin is a generic medication that may be best known by one of its brand-names, Ditropan®. It is principally used in the treatment of urinary difficulties like incontinence or overactive bladder. It’s sometimes also employed to treat conditions like profuse perspiration (hyperhidrosis). Though the medication is available in pill, patch or gel forms, pill form is most common. As with any drug, oxybutynin has benefits that are weighed against potential mild to serious side effects, and the medication has contraindications that determine appropriateness of use.

The main way that oxybutynin works to reduce urinary impulse or incontinence is by causing the smooth muscles in and surrounding the bladder to contract with less frequency. This is achieved because the drug is an anticholinergic medicine. These drugs block certain neurotransmitters from reaching cells that would cause smooth muscle contractions. There are many other anticholinergics and they often work in specific areas of the body. Oxybutynin most addresses the bladder and the smooth muscles surrounding it.

There are many people who can easily use oxybutynin for bladder conditions or for hyperhidrosis, but the medication isn’t recommended for all. People with intestinal blockage, certain forms of glaucoma, kidney or liver disease, myasthenia gravis, prostate problems, colitis, or most other disorders of the intestines are usually advised against using this medicine. Certain drugs are usually not combined with Ditropan®, and these include many medications to treat irritable bowel syndrome, many antidepressants, some antifungals, certain antivirals, and a select number of antibiotics like clarithromycin and erythromycin. Patients should give doctors a full list of medications taken, including any over the counter drugs or herbal remedies to make certain drug interactions won’t occur.

Dosage for oxybutynin depends on the condition. Problems can occur if an overdose is taken. People should immediately get medical assistance if they take too much of this medicine, as an overdose can be a severe risk to health.

Another issue for all people who take this drug is the risk of becoming dehydrated. In extreme heat, during excess exercise, or if an episode of strong diarrhea or vomiting occurs, medication users should be certain that liquid intake is adequate. If a person suspects dehydration, he should get medical help right away.

Most people taking this medicine as prescribed won’t experience a heavy burden of side effects, and some side effects are felt for a short time and then recede as people get used to the drug. Commonly reported adverse effects include dry mouth and eyes, nausea or other form of stomach upset, dizziness, nasal congestion, headache, and drowsiness. More severe reactions to oxybutynin include extreme reduction in urinary output, intense stomach pain, burning during urination, strong feelings of thirst and allergic reaction. Any of these symptoms require immediate contact with a physician, and anaphylactic allergic reaction needs emergency medical attention.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
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Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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