Overflow incontinence tends to occur when the bladder, like an overfull hot water bottle, has pressure put on it and the urine is forced out. This can be caused by neurological problems, which affect the bladder's ability to contract fully, or where urine is not able to come out easily due to a blockage and so pressure builds up. Overflow incontinence accounts for approximately 10-15% of all incontinence cases. In most of these cases, overflow incontinence is caused by an enlarged prostate. Men with enlarged prostates often complain of a urine stream that is very weak, difficulties or hesitation in starting to pass urine then difficulties stopping the dribble. This is known as terminal dribble (or after dribble). These men often leave a large volume of urine in their bladder even after going to the toilet, this may cause feelings of not fully emptying the bladder. Consequently they need to visit the toilet very frequently. Overflow incontinence presents as a continuous incontinence and without proper treatment the person will be damp all the time. This causes a person to experience social awkwardness, low self-esteem and can lead to loneliness or restricted social behaviour.
Overflow incontinence may affect your night-time rest, by waking you up numerous times overnight with the need to use the toilet. This is known as nocturia. A difficult to empty bladder may also cause bladder or kidney infections, because urine that stays in the bladder for long periods of time offers some bacteria a good environment to grow in.
However, with your doctor’s help and some guidance from Depend you can manage the condition. The following section on overflow incontinence discusses the causes and how to manage it.
Essentially, overflow incontinence is caused when your bladder is filled beyond its normal capability. This generally results in leakage from the bladder, which may occur anytime during the day or night. This over-filling can be caused by two factors. The first, by an outlet blockage usually seen with an enlarged prostate. The second underlying cause might be a weak or absent bladder contraction, caused by damage to the neurological system. Nerve damage may be caused by a variety of ailments including Spinal Cord Injury, Parkinson's, MS or Diabetes.
Certain medications – especially Anti-depressants, Anticholinergic agents, Calcium channel blockers, Antipsychotics and Opioids are all known to affect a person’s bladder contractions. For a more complete listing of these medications you may like to visit the Australian veterans page: The impact of commonly used medicines on urinary incontinence
Whatever the cause, overflow incontinence occurs when the bladder over-fills and urine leaks out under pressure.
The most important aspect of this type of incontinence is a correct diagnosis. A common test done by doctors and continence nurses is an ultra sound of your bladder. Your urine may also be analysed to check for bladder infections or kidney stones. Often treatment depends on the diagnosis of the underlying cause. For example, if it’s a medication that’s causing your incontinence, treatment may be as simple as changing your current medication to another type of medication that does not affect the bladder contractions but still addresses your needs. When the root cause is not known or you simply want to lessen the severity of the syndrome, the following treatments are recommended:
Many people refuse to acknowledge that they suffer from overflow incontinence and so forgo any treatment. However, seeing your doctor does not need to be a worrying experience. Incontinence is a common problem and treatments are available. Book a visit with your GP or Urologist, who can make a diagnosis and recommend a treatment plan. You may feel isolated whilst suffering from these unpleasant symptoms but friends and family can be supportive and considerate while you are going through this difficult time. With help from your doctor, your support network and Depend, you will be back to normal life in no time.
Kimberly-Clark Australia makes no warranties or representations regarding the completeness or accuracy of the information. This information should be used only as a guide and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional medical or other health professional advice.