Overflow incontinence is a form of urinary incontinence related to not being able to empty the bladder fully, which can result in bladder leakage. If you have this condition, it is possible to minimize interruptions to your everyday life. Read on for the common causes, treatments, and overflow incontinence products people use to gain control over leaks.
Overview of Overflow Incontinence
Chronic urinary retention leads to overflow incontinence. In other words, you are unable to empty your bladder fully during urination, possibly due to nerve or muscle damage from injury, surgery, or disease. People with overflow incontinence frequently experience bladder leakage, called dribbling, where small amounts of urine unexpectedly leak out during the day or night.
Causes of Overflow Incontinence and Who Is at Risk
The leading causes of overflow incontinence are blockages in the urethra or weakening of bladder muscles over time. Urinary incontinence commonly appears later in life, with almost half of Americans age 65 or older experiencing it.
While both men and women can have overflow incontinence, it’s twice as common in men, and there may be different underlying causes. For example, an enlarged but benign (non-cancerous) prostate can put pressure on the urethra, the tube that makes urination possible, weakening the bladder muscles in men. For women, the severe prolapse of the uterus or bladder can also make it difficult to empty the bladder successfully.
Other causes in men and women:
- Blockages of the urethra, including bladder stones, tumors, and scar tissue
- Nerve damage from diseases like multiple sclerosis, diabetes, Parkinson’s, alcoholism, or brain injuries
- Medications including some anticonvulsants and antidepressants
- Pelvic surgery
Symptoms of Overflow Incontinence
A common symptom of overflow incontinence is bladder leakage, which may happen during the day and night. Bladder leakage occurs when damage to bladder muscles or pelvic nerves makes it difficult to empty your bladder fully.
Another symptom of overflow incontinence is repeated urinary tract infections: Since you may or may not know your bladder is full, you retain urine, allowing the bacteria that cause these infections to build up, too.
You may also wake up regularly during the night to urinate, have trouble starting, or have a weak stream.
Lifestyle Changes to Improve Symptoms
Bladder training helps to control leaks. For example, try waiting 10 minutes after you feel the urge to urinate before going, working up slowly to every two to four hours between trips to the bathroom. Since you might not feel an urge to go, some people find scheduling bathroom breaks within a two to four-hour period helps them regularly empty their bladders.
Both men and women can do pelvic muscle exercises, called Kegels, to strengthen the bladder muscles. The next time you’re urinating, notice the sensation when you try to stop. These are the same muscles you use to do Kegel exercises. Tighten your muscles for five to ten seconds at a time, multiple times a day. Try doing Kegels while you’re cooking, traveling, or watching TV.
Treatment Options for Overflow Incontinence
There are many treatments for overflow incontinence, including medications, use of medical products, or surgery. Please consult your doctor to find the best treatment option for you.
There are a variety of medications that target different aspects of the condition. These can include:
- Anticholinergics, which help prevent bladder spasms. If you have trouble taking pills, patches are also available.
- Alpha-blockers, which can relax an enlarged prostate as well as bladder muscles to aid urination
- Low-dose topical estrogen, which can help improve symptoms for women and come as a cream, patch, or vaginal ring.
Many people use a catheter — a thin tube that goes into the urethra to drain the bladder — if medications fail to relieve their symptoms. Single-use catheters are widely available.
Your doctor may also recommend surgery if the blockage is severe or other treatments aren’t working.
Products to Help Manage Overflow Incontinence
There are products available to help you live your life to the fullest, including disposable pads and incontinence underwear that keep you comfortable and protected.
Disposable pads are a discreet solution for catching or stopping leaks. You can insert these pads and liners into your regular underwear to help with bladder control and throw them away after use.
Incontinence pull-up underwear, designed to absorb leaks, is similar in look and feel to regular underwear and, you can wear them under your everyday clothing. Adult diapers are an excellent option for total protection during the day or night when you’re unsure of bathroom access.
Now that you better understand the causes and treatments of overflow incontinence, you can talk to your doctor for the next steps, including lifestyle changes and treatment options like medications and surgery that can help you manage it. Simply Medical offers the high performing, easy to order incontinence supplies from winged underpads to heavy absorbent stretch underwear. You’ll find everything you need at affordable prices and discreet home delivery so that you can get back to your life faster.