Overflow incontinence accounts for around 10 to 15% of all cases of incontinence. It occurs when pressure on the bladder forces urine out, a bit like an overfull hot water bottle.
What is overflow incontinence?
If you feel like you can’t fully empty your bladder, or you are regularly dribbling urine, you may have overflow incontinence. Other symptoms include a weak urine stream when going to the toilet, or difficulty starting to urinate.
A weak flow can cause you to need to use the toilet more often. Overflow incontinence can also lead to adult bedwetting or nocturnal enuresis. One of the most unfortunate side-effects of overflow incontinence is the increased risk of bladder infections, due to urine staying in the bladder for long periods of time.
What causes overflow incontinence?
Overflow incontinence is caused when your bladder is stretched beyond its normal capacity, often resulting in leaks during the day or night.
There are a couple of things that might cause this overstretching. The first is blockage in the bladder, urethra, or other areas of the urinary system. The second could be a weak bladder contraction, potentially caused by nerve damage or atrophy of the muscles in and around the bladder. When a weak bladder contraction occurs, the bladder tends to enlarge, expanding the opening and allowing urine to leak.
Nerve damage in and around the bladder may be caused by a variety of ailments, including Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis (MS) or Diabetes. Certain medications, including anti-depressants, may also cause the bladder to overfill.
Overflow incontinence in men
A common cause of overflow incontinence in men is an enlarged prostate gland, which causes a blockage at the entrance to the urethra. After radiation or surgery for prostate cancer, the urethra and neck of the bladder can also narrow.
Overflow incontinence in women
Weak bladder muscles are a common cause of overflow incontinence in women. Pregnancy, menopause, ovarian tumours or kidney stones can weaken bladder muscles. Generally, women are less likely to suffer from overflow incontinence than men.
How to treat overflow incontinence
The first step to treating overflow incontinence is to ensure it is diagnosed correctly. Don’t be afraid to speak to your doctor, as the condition will not be new to them.
Your GP may want to do a stress bladder test to determine if you leak when you cough. They may also check your urine for bladder infections or kidney stones.
Treatment will depend on the underlying cause. For example, if medication is the cause then treatment could be as simple as stopping the medication.
The following treatments for overflow incontinence may be recommended by your doctor:
- Incontinence surgery: When the blockage is found to be a tumour or kidney stone that can’t be passed, surgery is often the best option.
- Incontinence medication: A group of medications called alpha-blockers can be effective in reducing the symptoms of overflow incontinence. These work by relaxing the portion of your urinary tract where the bladder flows into the urethra, allowing urine to flow out more easily.
- Intermittent self-catheterisation: Here, a health professional will teach you how to insert a urinary catheter. This option should only be considered in severe cases and if you doctor has recommended it.
Managing overflow incontinence
If you want to lessen the severity of your condition, we recommend trying these control methods:
- Bladder training: This is when you go to the toilet at regular intervals, usually every two to three hours, to stop your bladder overfilling. You may be able to train yourself to wait a little longer over time.
- Pelvic floor exercises: Doing Kegel exercises several times a day can strengthen your bladder and the surrounding muscles, potentially lessening the effect of overflow incontinence.
- Incontinence products: By wearing an incontinence product, you can continue doing the things you enjoy, knowing you’re discreetly protected.
Incontinence products that help you take back control
We even have a specially designed range of products that offers increased protection when you're active - because incontinence shouldn't stop you doing the things you love.