Other names: Cystrin, Ditropan, Lyrinel XL
Oxybutynin is an anticholinergic drug that is used to improve your bladder's ability to store urine. In MS it may be used if you need to go to the toilet frequently, or if you have sudden urges to go to the toilet or find it difficult to 'hold on'. This is known as urinary frequency or urgency.
How oxybutynin works
All anticholinergic drugs work by reducing the action of the chemical messenger that passes nerve messages to the muscle in the bladder wall. This results in the muscle of the bladder wall relaxing, which reduces the bladder's tendency to contract. The same chemical messenger activates the salivary glands, and so dry mouth is a common side effect of oxybutynin.
How is oxybutynin given
Oxybutynin is taken orally as tablets, the dose and number of times a day you take the tablets will be decided by your doctor. It can take a few weeks before the full benefits are seen.
Side effects and contraindications
A dry mouth is the main side effect of oxybutynin. It can also have an effect on cognition and may lead to confusion. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should seek a doctor's advice before using oxybutynin.
All anticholinergic drugs may worsen urinary retention, so before starting on medication it is important to monitor how much urine is left in the bladder after it is emptied. It is normal for a small amount to be retained, but the risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs) is increased if too much urine remains in the bladder.
- Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2009;(1):CD004193. Full article Anticholinergics for urinary symptoms in multiple sclerosis.
- London: NICE; 2012. Full guideline Urinary incontinence in neurological disease: assessment and management. Clinical Guideline 148.
- New York: Demos; 2003. Bladder symptoms. In: Managing the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. 4th ed.
- London: Whurr Publishers; 2002. Bladder and bowel symptoms in MS. In: Multiple sclerosis: theory and practice for nurses.