Overflow incontinence is more than just a leaky bladder. In fact, it can even contribute to nighttime bed-wetting. Urinary incontinence is the inability to control urination.
In the case of overflow incontinence specifically, you are unable to fully empty your bladder, leading to overflow and unexpected leaks as a result. But embarrassment and discomfort aren’t the only problems associated with overflow incontinence. Remaining urine in the bladder can become a breeding ground for bacteria that can lead to infections.
Causes and symptoms of overflow incontinence
Overflow incontinence stems from the bladder’s inability to fully empty. This can be a result of weak bladder muscles that are unable to squeeze well enough to empty the bladder. Muscle weakness can also be caused by nerve or muscle damage due to an injury, surgery, or neurological disease like Parkinson’s.
With persisting problem of incomplete bladder emptying, the muscles weaken over time, so the bladder starts holding more and more urine. This only increases the risk of leaking, aside from a constant feeling of a full bladder.
In some cases, overflow incontinence can be due to a blockage resulting from prostate enlargement, constipation, or stricture of the urethra.
Symptoms of overflow incontinence include the sudden release of urine, the feeling of a full bladder even after you relieved yourself, leakage of urine while asleep, a urine stream that starts and stop throughout urination, and difficulty urinating despite a strong urge to go.
Diagnosis and tests for overflow incontinence
For diagnosing the type of incontinence you have, your doctor will start by asking you a series of questions. These may include:
How often do you go to the bathroom?
When you go to the bathroom, do you have trouble starting or stopping the flow of urine?
Do you leak urine during certain activities?
Do you leak constantly?
Do you leak urine before you get to the bathroom?
Do you experience pain or burning when you urinate?
Do you get frequent urinary tract infections?
Have you had a back injury?
Do you have a medical condition that could interfere with bladder function?
What medications are you taking?
These questions can help inform your doctor’s choice of the specific tests to run. These may include a bladder stress test, catheterization, urine analysis and urine culture, and an ultrasound to look for any abnormalities.
Further testing may include urodynamic testing, cystoscopy, and IVP, which is basically an X-ray examination of your urinary system.
Treatment for overflow incontinence in men and women
Treatment for overflow incontinence in men and women may differ based on the cause. For example, men commonly experience overflow incontinence as a result of an enlarged prostate, so the treatment aims to address the problem of prostate enlargement. Men may receive alpha-adrenergic blockers, which help relax the muscles at the base of the urethra for a smoother passing of urine. If medications are not successful in treating overflow incontinence associated with an enlarged prostate, then surgery may be required.
Treatment for both men and women may involve the use of a catheter, which is a thin, flexible tube inserted into the bladder to allow it to drain.
For women specifically, surgery may be required to address problems causing overflow incontinence, such as obstructions or abnormal growth.
Other treatment options include bladder training, pelvic floor exercises, and products such as adult diapers to reduce embarrassment associated with overflow incontinence.