Drugs to combat overactive bladder tied to memory problems, confusion

The Baltimore Sun

My 62-year-old husband had a prostatectomy a year ago. It was successful, but he continues to have bladder problems. His urologist put him on Detrol for this.

When he started acting confused and paranoid, I got concerned. At the urologist's appointment I explained this to the doctor, and he matter-of-factly muttered that "yes, a side effect is cognitive decline."

I was shocked and very upset that this was not in any of the pharmacy inserts we got with the prescription. Why isn't this information more accessible?

It is alarming that the pharmacy inserts did not mention mental impairment as a possible side effect of your husband's medication. Drugs for overactive bladder or incontinence like Detrol or Ditropan have been linked with memory problems and confusion in some patients (Clinical Therapeutics, February 2005).

Medicines that alter the action of a brain chemical called acetylcholine are notorious for causing side effects such as dry mouth, constipation, blurred vision and cognitive impairment. Many other drugs besides those for bladder problems can trigger such symptoms. They include the antihistamine diphenhydramine, which is used to control allergy symptoms and insomnia. It is found in such popular products as Advil PM, Benadryl and Tylenol PM.

When I first met my friend Mike 20 years ago, he was going through bottles of antacids. He'd been doing this for 12 years, far longer than the bottle label recommended.

He had a severe bout of anemia and was told he had an ulcer. More medicine!

Finally, three years ago he learned he had gluten intolerance. Now on a gluten-free diet, he no longer suffers heartburn at all.

Gluten intolerance, or celiac disease, can lead to a wide variety of problems, from migraine headaches and itchy skin rashes to acid reflux and osteoporosis. With the correct diagnosis and treatment (a gluten-free diet eliminating wheat, barley and rye), those who suffer from celiac disease can avoid a lot of suffering and unnecessary medication.

Another reader shared her story: "As a child, I had stomachaches almost every night. No one could figure out why. I also was anemic for several years in grade school, again without a clue as to the cause.

"I am now in my 50s and have osteoporosis. I recently learned that my chronic abdominal pain, bowel problems, anemia and osteoporosis are all related to gluten sensitivity! I used to eat a piece of toast to calm my bowels down, not realizing that the toast was the culprit. When I modified my diet, I was amazed at how much better I felt."

Thank you for writing about coconut for treating ulcerative colitis. I was diagnosed with colitis in 1980 and had three feet of my colon removed. My condition was moderate to severe, and I was taking eight tablets of sulfasalazine every day to control it, along with Rowasa enemas daily.

I started ingesting shredded coconut twice a day after reading your article, though I had no expectation it would help. Within a few weeks, my symptoms had lessened, and in about a month, I had gone into complete remission. A year later, I had a colonoscopy showing a healthy colon.

I gradually cut back my medication and have not taken anything for the condition for five years. I feel well and have had no GI problems. I read that coconut has anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties and think it must be true.

We have heard from others who suffered from severe diarrhea associated with inflammatory bowel disease that coconut macaroon cookies or shredded coconut alone can be helpful. We doubt that many people with ulcerative colitis would respond as dramatically as you have, but we certainly are delighted to learn that this remedy was beneficial for such a serious condition.

Do you have any home remedies for eczema and seborrheic dermatitis? I can no longer afford the creams that my doctor has prescribed.

You may want to check for allergies. One reader shared her experience: "After seeing an allergist for a test that showed milk allergies, I was put on a dairy-free diet for life. My eczema cleared up within two weeks."

One inexpensive option for seborrheic dermatitis (super dandruff that can also affect the face) is topical milk of magnesia. Here is a reader's response: "I want to thank you so very much for delivering me from the scourge of seborrheic dermatitis, which I suffered for 30 years. Milk of magnesia was the cure!"

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of this newspaper or e-mail them via their Web site.

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