The cognitive effect of anticholinergics for patients with overactive bladder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)
11 Downloads (Pure)


Overactive bladder (OAB) is often treated with medications that block the cholinergic receptors in the bladder (known as anticholinergics). The effect of this medication class on cognition and risk of dementia has been increasingly studied over the past 40 years after initial studies suggested that the anticholinergic medication class could affect memory. Short-term randomized clinical trials demonstrated that the administration of the anticholinergic oxybutynin leads to impaired memory and attention, and large, population-based studies showed associations between several different anticholinergic medications and dementia. However, trials involving anticholinergics other than oxybutynin have not shown such substantial effects on short-term cognitive function. This discordance in results between short-term cognitive safety of OAB anticholinergics and the long-term increased dementia risk could be explained by the high proportion of patients using oxybutynin in the OAB subgroups of the dementia studies, or a study duration that was too short in the prospective clinical trials on cognition with other OAB anticholinergics. Notably, all studies must be interpreted in the context of potential confounding factors, such as when prodromal urinary symptoms associated with the early stages of dementia lead to an increase in OAB medication use, rather than the use of OAB medication causing dementia. In patients with potential risk factors for cognitive impairment, the cautious use of selected OAB anticholinergic agents with favourable physicochemical and pharmacokinetic properties and clinical trial evidence of cognitive safety might be appropriate.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)686–700
Number of pages15
JournalNature Reviews Urology
Issue number11
Early online date24 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2021

Cite this