Understanding Overflow Incontinence and Its Management

Overflow incontinence is one of the more commonly reported types of incontinence. It occurs when the bladder is filled beyond capacity and literally overflows, resulting in a leak of urine. This type of incontinence can occur at night as well as during the day.


Overflow incontinence occurs as a result of many different underlying problems, but the two most common causes are weak bladder muscles and a physical blockage:

  1. Weak bladder muscles cause the bladder to not empty properly, and since it never completely empties, it easily fills past capacity, resulting in overflow incontinence.
  2. A physical blockage often occurs in older men as a result of an enlarged prostate gland. The blockage does not allow the bladder to fully empty, causing it to overfill. The resulting pressure causes urine leakage.

While the most common cause of overflow incontinence occurs in older men as a result of an enlarged prostate gland blocking the bladder opening, it can also be caused by a narrow bladder neck or urethra. These conditions are often the result of radiation or surgery to treat cancer of the prostate gland.

Other prevalent causes of overflow incontinence in both women and men include: stones in the urinary tract; constipation which puts pressure on the neck of the bladder and the urethra; nerve damage from diseases like diabetes; and medications that negatively paralyze the bladder as a side effect.

Visiting the Physician

When determining the cause of an individual’s incontinence, it is best to consult with a physician. Before your visit, keep an eating and drinking log, along with a log of toileting habits and incontinence episodes. This information will come in handy: when the doctor has a detailed medical history, it is much easier to determine the correct diagnosis of the problem, along with treatment options. Along with the log, a doctor will very likely check your overall health, and rule out any chance of infection through urine and blood tests.

Once the cause of the overflow incontinence has been identified, it is time to move on to a solution. In some cases, simple behavioral modification may be enough to manage symptoms of overflow incontinence. Other times, overflow incontinence may be the side effect of a medication, and a substitute medication is all that is needed to fix the problem. When constipation is the underlying cause, resolving it can also cure the incontinence.

Since curing an incontinence problem is usually a direct result of treating the underlying cause of the incontinence, it is important for a health care professional to understand the type of incontinence. This understanding helps them recommend an appropriate treatment for the condition.

It is important that people realize that overflow incontinence – or any type of incontinence, for that matter- is not simply part of growing old. Physicians view it as a symptom of an underlying problem. In some instances, it can even be an early warning sign that a more serious condition is developing. Therefore, it is important to discuss issues with incontinence with a medical professional. Since incontinence is not a normal side effect of aging, it should not be ignored. The sooner it is diagnosed, the sooner it can be treated.

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Disclaimer: All material published on the Incontinence.co.uk web site is for informational purposes only. Readers are encouraged to confirm the information contained herein with other sources. The information is not intended to replace medical advice offered by your doctor or health professional. Readers should always discuss health matters and review the information carefully with their doctor or health care professional. Extended Disclaimer