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Overflow Incontinence: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Overflow Incontinence Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

If you're experiencing an unexpected loss of urine, discharge control, or involuntary leaking, it's possible you are dealing with overflow incontinence. It is a somewhat common condition among older men and women. 

This problem arises when the bladder fails to empty itself completely. The remaining urine leaks out later when your bladder gets too full. Bladder tumors or blockages may cause this issue. 

Thankfully, several medical products and treatments may be able to help allieviate this condition. This guide will explain what you need to know about overflow incontinence, its symptoms, causes and treatments. 

What is Overflow Incontinence?  

If you find yourself leaking urine, it's possible you are suffering from overflow incontinence. Furthermore, you may suddenly leak urine after a sneeze or cough, and might not be able to make it to the bathroom on time.

The most common symptoms of overflow incontinence are:

  • Sudden leakages of urine
  • Urine leakage while sleeping
  • Difficulty while urinating, even when you have a strong urge
  • Frequently getting up at night to urinate
  • Irregular urine stream which might start and stop while you urinate
  • A weak urine stream while urinating

If you're suffering from this ailment, you may not even feel the urge to urinate, but still leak urine.

What Causes Overflow Incontinence?

The primary cause of overflow incontinence is chronic urinary retention. It occurs when your bladder is unable to empty itself. In men, this condition is caused by benign prostatic hyperplasia1 — an enlarged prostate.

When this happens, it exerts pressure on the urethra, creating difficulty while urinating. Further, it also reduces the flow. As a result, your bladder may feel full more often, increasing the urge to urinate frequently.

Other possible reasons for overflow incontinence could include:

  • Weakening of the bladder muscles, where it gets tougher to squeeze out urine properly
  • Urethral blockages such as stones, swelling, tumors, or scar tissue
  • Conditions that cause nerve damage, such as multiple sclerosis, diabetes, back problems, pelvic surgery, or Parkinson's disease
  • Bladder or uterus prolapse in women
  • Nerve injuries can impact the bladder negatively
  • Some medications like antidepressants affect nerve signals to your bladder

Overflow incontinence

Diagnosis

A doctor will conduct the following tests to diagnose the incontinence type:

  • Cough test to see if leaks occur
  • Urine tests to check for any infections
  • Prostate test
  • Postvoid residual measurement

Overview of Incontinence Types

Type

Description

Treatment

Stress

Leakage caused by abdominal pressure due to coughing, sneezing, or other stressors 

Surgery, incontinence devices, and physiotherapy

Urge

Involuntary leakage followed by urgency

Pelvic-floor exercises, diet changes, and medications

Mixed

A combination of urge and stress incontinence

Physiotherapy and surgery

Overflow

Inability to empty bladder and sudden leakage

Medicine, catheterization, and surgery

Functional

Failure to reach bathroom due to disability

Addressing underlying reasons

Treatment for Overflow Incontinence

If you are looking for ways to manage overflow incontinence, here are some potential ways to address the issue. You can adapt them as per your needs.

Medication

Alpha-adrenergic blockers2 are most commonly used to treat overflow incontinence among men. They relax the muscle fibers of the prostate gland, and ease the base of their urethra. As a result, the urine passes through smoothly, and the bladder is emptied.

Some of the most commonly administered alpha-blockers include:

  • Doxazosin
  • Terazosin
  • Prazosin
  • Tamsulosin
  • Alfuzosin
  • Silodosin

 

Medications for incontinence

Some Medications that May Exacerbate Incontinence

Medications

Effects

ACE inhibitors

Urge and stress incontinence

Antipsychotics

Functional and overflow incontinence

Alpha-adrenergic blockers

Stress incontinence

Lithium

Urge incontinence

Opioids

Functional incontinence

Diuretics

Urge incontinence, frequency, polyuria


Medical Products

The following products can help both men and women address overflow incontinence effectively.

Catheter

This is a soft and flexible tube inserted into the urethra to drain out the urine. Men may need to insert it several times until their bladder is emptied. For women, they might use it 3-4 times a day whenever they wish to urinate.

An Indwelling Foley catheter is another device that stays inside the bladder. It's held by a balloon-like structure.

Adult Undergarments

Men and women can wear these underneath their everyday clothing. The products have absorbent material in order to catch leaks.

Some men may also use drip collectors with absorbent padding. They work perfectly for functional incontinence. These go around the penis and collect minor leaks.

Surgical Methods

Some of the standard surgical procedures for treating overflow incontinence are:

  • Transurethral resection of the prostate (for men)
  • Prolapse surgery (for women)
  • Bladder neck suspension
  • Vaginal sling methods

Top Products for Treating Overflow Incontinence

Here are some of the most effective products on the market to address overflow incontinence:

Endnotes

If left untreated, overflow incontinence can cause urinary tract infections. These can eventually lead to kidney complications as well. Therefore, it is advised to seek medical assistance if you observe incontinence symptoms.

Both surgeries and catheters are considered legitimate treatment options for overflow incontinence. However, you can perform pelvic exercises and use bladder training methods as well first if you'd like to first attempt to address the problem as naturally as possible. Also, you can take scheduled bathroom breaks every 2 to 4 hours.

References

  1. Prostate Enlargement (Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia)” National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Online Publication.
  2. Sullivan, J. and Abrams, P., 1999. Pharmacological management of incontinence. European urology, 36(Suppl. 1), pp.89-95, PubMed.gov.

Disclaimer: The information presented here is purely for educational purposes and should not be used in place of the advice of your doctor or physician.