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Tamsulosin

1. About tamsulosin

Tamsulosin belongs to a group of medicines called alpha-blockers. It's used to treat men with symptoms of an enlarged prostate (benign prostate enlargement).

It's also occasionally taken to treat kidney stones.

Tamsulosin is available on prescription and you can also buy it from pharmacies. It comes as tablets and capsules.

If you buy tamsulosin from a pharmacy make sure you see your doctor within 6 weeks of starting your treatment to make sure it's OK for you to carry on taking this medicine.

Tamsulosin is also known by brand names such as Flomax Relief and Flomaxtra XL.

Tamsulosin is sometimes combined with other ingredients to treat bladder problems and enlarged prostate. Brand names include Vesomni (with solifenacin) and Combodart (with dutasteride).

2. Key facts

  • Tamsulosin helps reduce the symptoms of an enlarged prostate gland by relaxing the muscles in the bladder and prostate so you can pee more easily.
  • When you first take tamsulosin, it may make you feel dizzy or lightheaded. If this happens it's best to sit or lie down until your feel better.
  • Tamsulosin is taken once a day, usually in the morning after breakfast or the first meal of the day.
  • The main side effects of tamsulosin are feeling dizzy and problems when men ejaculate (such as little or no semen).

3. Who can and can't take tamsulosin

Tamsulosin can be taken by adults (aged 18 and over).

Do not give this medicine to children, unless on the advice of a specialist.

Tamsulosin is not suitable for some people. To make sure this medicine is safe for you, tell a doctor if you:

  • have had an allergic reaction to tamsulosin or any other similar medicine in the past
  • have orthostatic hypotension, a form of low blood pressure that can make you feel dizzy or lightheaded when you stand up
  • have severe liver or kidney problems
  • are having eye surgery for cataracts or glaucoma

4. How and when to take it

Tamsulosin comes as slow-release tablets and capsules (also called modified release, prolonged release, MR or XL).

This means the medicine is released into your body gradually.

How much will I take?

The usual dose of tamsulosin for enlarged prostate and kidney stone is 400 micrograms, once a day. The word microgram is sometimes written with the Greek symbol μ followed by the letter g (μg). A microgram is 1,000 times smaller than a milligram (mg).

How to take it

Swallow your tamsulosin capsules or tablets whole with a glass of water.

Do not break, chew or crush them.

If you can, take tamsulosin in the morning, after breakfast or the first meal or snack of the day. This is so the highest levels of medicine are in your body during the day and gives you the most benefit when you are most likely trying to pee.

It's best to take it at about the same time each day.

What if I forget to take it?

If you miss a dose of tamsulosin, and you remember within 6 hours, take the missed dose as soon as you remember. If it's more than 6 hours, skip the missed dose and take your next dose at the usual time the next day.

Do not take a double dose to make up for a forgotten dose.

If you forget doses often, it may help to set an alarm to remind you.

You could also ask your pharmacist for advice on other ways to help you remember to take your medicine.

What if I take too much?

Taking too much tamsulosin can lead to a decrease in your blood pressure and an increase in your heart rate. You may feel drowsy, faint and lightheaded.

Urgent advice: Call 111 for advice now if:

  • you take too much tamsulosin and feel unwell

If you need to go to hospital, do not drive yourself – get someone else to drive you or call an ambulance.

Take the tamsulosin packet, or the leaflet inside it with you plus any remaining medicine.

5. Side effects

Like all medicines, tamsulosin can cause side effects, but many people have no side effects or only minor ones.

Side effects often improve as your body gets used to the medicine.

Common side effects

These common side effects happen in more than 1 in 100 people. They're usually mild and short-lived.

Talk to a doctor or pharmacist if these side effects bother you or last more than a few days:

  • feeling dizzy – especially when you sit or stand up
  • problems when men ejaculate - such as little or no semen

Serious side effects

Call a doctor straight away if you have:

  • shortness of breath or difficulty breathing – these can be signs of lung problems
  • yellow skin or the whites of your eyes turning yellow – these can be signs of liver problems
  • bruising or bleeding easily – these can be signs of a blood problem

Urgent advice: Call 999 or go to A&E if you:

  • get chest pain, an irregular heartbeat or you can feel your heartbeat (palpitations) – these can be signs of heart problems
  • problems speaking, weakness of arms or legs – these can be signs of a stroke
  • a painful erection that lasts 4 or more hours

Serious allergic reaction

In rare cases, tamsulosin may cause a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis).

Immediate action required: Call 999 or go to A&E now if:

  • you get a skin rash that may include itchy, red, swollen, blistered or peeling skin
  • you are wheezing
  • you get tightness in the chest or throat
  • you have trouble breathing or talking
  • your mouth, face, lips, tongue or throat start swelling

You could be having a serious allergic reaction and may need immediate treatment in hospital.

These are not all the side effects of tamsulosin. For a full list, see the leaflet inside your medicine packet.

Information:

You can report any suspected side effects to the UK Safety Scheme.

6. How to cope with side effects

What to do about:

  • Feeling dizzy – if tamsulosin makes you feel dizzy, stop what you're doing, and sit or lie down until you feel better. Do not drive, ride a bike or use tools or machinery if you're feeling dizzy. Do not drink alcohol as it will make you feel worse. Talk to a doctor if these side effects last more than a few days.
  • Problems when men ejaculate – if the amount you ejaculate is less than usual or you have no semen at all, you do not need to worry as this side effect is harmless. Talk to a doctor if it bothers you or does not get any better.

7. Pregnancy and breastfeeding

Tamsulosin is not usually recommended in pregnancy. It'’s not clear whether tamsulosin can harm your baby.

If you're taking tamsulosin for kidney stones and you're pregnant or trying to get pregnant, talk to a doctor about the benefits and possible harm of taking tamsulosin.

The doctor will be able to recommend the best treatment for you and your baby.

Tamsulosin and breastfeeding

If you take tamsulosin while breastfeeding there's a risk of the tamsulosin getting into your breast milk. This may mean your baby gets some side effects from the medicine.

Talk to a doctor if you want to breastfeed while taking tamsulosin.

Non-urgent advice: Talk to your doctor if you're:

  • trying to get pregnant
  • pregnant
  • breastfeeding

8. Cautions with other medicines

There are some medicines that interfere with the way tamsulosin works.

Tell a doctor or pharmacist if you are taking:

  • any other alpha-blockers such as doxazosin, alfuzosin, prazosin and terazosin – these may cause a decrease in your blood pressure
  • other medicines for high blood pressure – taking them with tamsulosin can lower your blood pressure too much, which can make you feel dizzy or faint – tell your doctor if this keeps happening
  • medicines for erectile dysfunction such as sildenafil, tadalafil or vardenafil
  • medicines that may decrease the removal of tamsulosin from the body (for example ketoconazole, which is used for fungal infections and antibiotics such as erythromycin and clarithromycin
  • other medicines that can lower your blood pressure – these include some antidepressants, nitrates (for chest pain), baclofen (a muscle relaxant), and co-careldopa and levodopa (for Parkinson's disease)

Taking tamsulosin with painkillers

It's OK to take take paracetamol, codeine and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen while you're taking tamsulosin.

Mixing tamsulosin with herbal remedies and supplements

There's very little information about taking herbal medicines and supplements with tamsulosin.

Important

Tell a doctor or pharmacist if you're taking other medicines, including remedies, vitamins or supplements.

9. Common questions

How does tamsulosin work?

Tamsulosin is a type of medicine known as an alpha-blocker (or alpha-adrenoreceptor antagonist).

If you have an enlarged prostate gland it helps by relaxing the muscle around the bladder and prostate gland making it easier to pee.

In some cases it can also be used to help ease the passing of kidney stones through the urinary tract.

How long will I take it for?

How long you take it for depends on why you're taking it.

For enlarged prostate – if tamsulosin is helping your symptoms, you can continue to take it long term. Your doctor may check every few months that you're still having relief from symptoms.

For kidney stones – your doctor may tell you to stop taking it if your stones have gone or if the medicine is not helping you. Your doctor may check every few months that you're still having relief from symptoms. They will tell you to stop taking it if it is no longer needed.

Is it safe to take for a long time?

Tamsulosin is generally safe to take for a long time. In fact, it works best when you take it for a long time.

What will happen if I stop taking it?

Stopping tamsulosin suddenly can make your condition worse as your symptoms may return.

Talk to a doctor if you want to stop taking tamsulosin.

If you're bothered by side effects, the doctor may be able to prescribe a different medicine.

If you stop taking tamsulosin, it will take 2 to 3 days for it to be completely out of your body.

How does it compare with other medicines for enlarged prostate?

There are a few other medicines that can help with symptoms associated with enlarged prostate.

There are other alpha blockers such as alfuzosin, doxazosin and terazosin.

Other medicines for enlarged prostate are 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors, also known as dihydrotestosterone inhibitors – for example finasteride and dutasteride.

Some people may need to take a combination of an alpha blocker and a 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor if a single medicine is not helping their symptoms.

Will I need to stop taking tamsulosin before surgery?

If you're going to have cataract or glaucoma surgery, tell the doctor that you're taking tamsulosin in advance.

The doctor may advise you to stop taking tamsulosin 2 weeks before surgery. This is because tamsulosin may cause complications during the cataract or glaucoma operation.

For any other surgery, ask the nurse or doctor at your pre-assessment appointment if you need to stop taking tamsulosin.

Can I drink alcohol with it?

It's usually OK to drink alcohol with tamsulosin. However, during the first few days of taking tamsulosin, it's best not to drink alcohol.

Alcohol can increase the blood pressure-lowering effect and this can make you feel dizzy or lightheaded.

Is there any food or drink I need to avoid?

It's important to take tamsulosin after breakfast. If you do not eat breakfast, take your medicine after your first meal or snack of the day.

Will it affect my contraception?

Tamsulosin will not stop your contraception working, including the combined pill and emergency contraception.

Will it affect my fertility?

Some men report problems when they ejaculate when taking tamsulosin such as little or no semen.

If you or your partner are taking tamsulosin and you're trying for a baby, speak to a doctor.

Will it affect my sex life?

Tell a doctor or pharmacist if you are taking medicines for erectile dysfunction (impotence) such as sildenafil, tadalafil or vardenafil, you may find that tamsulosin makes you feel dizzy or lightheaded.

The doctor may tell you to leave a 6-hour gap between tamsulosin and medicines for erectile dysfunction.

If you're having problems with your sex life after taking tamsulosin, talk to a doctor.

Can I drive or ride a bike?

Tamsulosin can make some people feel dizzy or lightheaded, especially when they first start taking it.

If this happens to you, do not drive a car, ride a bike, or use tools or machinery. Wait until you feel OK again.

Can lifestyle changes help symptoms of an enlarged prostate gland?

Making some simple changes to your lifestyle can help with symptoms of an enlarged prostate gland.

  • Drink fewer fizzy drinks and less alcohol, caffeine and artificial sweeteners – they can irritate the bladder and make urinary symptoms worse.
  • Drink less in the evening – try to reduce the amount you drink and avoid drinking anything for 2 hours before bedtime. This might help you avoid getting up in the night. Make sure you're still drinking enough fluids earlier in the day.
  • Empty your bladder – remember to go to the toilet before long journeys or other situations when you know you may not be able to reach a toilet easily.
  • Try "double voiding" – wait a few moments after you have finish peeing, then try to go again. It can help you empty your bladder properly (but take care not to strain or push).
  • Check your medicines – ask a doctor whether any medicines you take, such as antidepressants or decongestants, may be making your urinary symptoms worse.
  • Eat more fruit and fibre – this can help you avoid constipation. Being constipated can put pressure on the bladder and make your symptoms worse.

Page last reviewed: 14 November 2019
Next review due: 14 November 2022