HomeBladder DisordersUnderstanding Overflow Incontinence

One of the most common types of urinary incontinence is that of overflow incontinence. The name is easily understood and signals the problem: the bladder is too full and overflows. It is easy to imagine a bathtub and a dripping faucet slowly filling it to capacity.  Once the tub fills and finally can hold no more it leaks over the side. This is the same thing that happens to those suffering from overflow incontinence. The bladder simply cannot hold all the urine and some dribbles out at unexpected times. Many people assume this is the exact same condition as stress incontinence. They do share many of the same characteristics, but this condition is unique.

Causes of Overflow Incontinence

The root cause is a bladder that is too full, but what causes this? The problem may have several instigators. If a person is unable to fully empty their bladder because of weak bladder muscles then this can leave excess urine in the bladder at all times. This can further be exacerbated by a faulty nerve signal to the detrusor muscle (the muscle that compresses the bladder for urination). There are both medical conditions that can dampen this signal as well as medications that can affect the body’s ability to effectively communicate the need to urinate. The body’s failure to properly signal the need to urinate leads to further excess urine buildup. Eventually, the bladder can hold no more and leaks. Even for a person that urinates properly and frequently, there can also be blockages that stop the bladder from emptying fully. An enlarged prostate is one of the most frequent causes and this is the primary reason why overflow incontinence is far more likely to affect men than women.

Effects of Overflow Incontinence

overflow incontinence

The signs are easy to observe, but the effects of this type of incontinence may not be so obvious. Beyond the mental strain that comes from always worrying about leaks come physical problems, too. When the bladder fails to empty, the stagnant urine becomes a prime breeding ground for bacteria, which can lead to severe urinary tract infections or bladder infections. Also, if a person can’t properly empty the bladder this may lead to the need for intermittent catheterization. It is true that most people can learn to self-cath easily, but this can also lead to pain and soreness around the urethra. A very important consideration is that this type of incontinence can also be a symptom of a more serious disease. A urologist or primary care physician can perform many tests to determine how severe the incontinence is and what treatments are available.

Treatment Options

Just like overactive bladder syndrome, there are many medications that can help relax the bladder and allow for urination. A commonly prescribed drug is Flomax. Elimination by an intermittent or indwelling catheter may provide relief and is often the only non-surgical solution. Incontinence briefs and incontinence pads like a Male Urine Guard or other style are also useful to absorb leaks. Of course, a condom catheter or other type of external catheter is also a popular solution for men suffering from this condition. Again, a urologist or doctor can recommend the best treatment for a person’s incontinence issues and an appointment should be made as soon as someone suspects incontinence.

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