Overflow incontinence accounts for approximately 10-15% of all incontinence cases. As it can often be the most life-changing type of incontinence you can suffer from, it can be useful to be pro-active and learn about the condition in depth.
The main feature that defines overflow incontinence is the inability to completely empty your bladder. This problem leads to urine overflow, which results in urine leaking out unexpectedly. Often, you might not be able to make it to the bathroom in time. What makes the condition particularly hard to manage is that you may or may not sense that your bladder is full. If you suffer from overflow incontinence, the bladder never empties properly and fills up more quickly due to the residual volume. When you do visit the toilet, you may find it difficult to start to pass water and that even when you have started; the flow is weak and slow. You might find that you dribble after you have finished passing water. When you do go to the toilet, it is likely you will experience a constant loss of small amounts of urine. The impact of overflow incontinence on your health can be drastic. Urine that is left in the bladder can be a breeding ground for bacteria. This leakage can even lead to repeated urinary tract infections.
It is important to know the difference between various types of incontinence so you can begin looking for the ideal treatment method for you.
The main types of incontinence are defined as the following by the NHS:
Stress incontinence- this is when urine leaks out if your bladder is under pressure; for example, when you cough or laugh
Urge incontinence – this is when urine leaks as you feel a sudden, intense urge to pass urine, or soon afterwards
Overflow incontinence – this is when you are unable to fully empty your bladder, which causes frequent leaking
Besides frequent urine leakage, you may also experience the following symptoms if you have overflow incontinence:
> Problems when starting to urinate and experiencing a weak stream once it starts
> Frequent urinary tract infections
> Getting up regularly during the night to urinate
What causes Overflow Incontinence?
Overflow incontinence occurs when the muscles of the bladder do not squeeze properly to empty the bladder efficiently. This is caused when your bladder is stretched beyond its normal capability. This can be an issue in cases where there may have been nerve or muscle damage, often caused by injury, surgery or disease such as Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis and Spina Bifida. It is also possible for overflow incontinence to be caused due to an obstruction which makes it more difficult for you to fully empty the bladder. In men, this problem can be a kidney stone blocking the urethra, constipation. Both men and women may be suffering from a stricture of the urethra which can result in overflow incontinence. Weak bladder muscles are common causes of overflow incontinence in women. Pregnancy, menopause, ovarian tumours or even kidney stones can cause weakened bladder muscles. Interestingly, it is much more common for men to suffer from overflow incontinence than men. In some cases, overflow incontinence is a side effect of infections or certain conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease or MS.
Often, even certain medications, such as medications for treating mental disorders like depression and psychosis may cause the bladder to overfill.
Treatment for Overflow Incontinence
The inability to fully empty your bladder can be an embarrassing or shameful condition to talk about, and many people refuse to acknowledge that they even suffer from urinary incontinence. However, seeing your Doctor or GP does not need to be an embarrassing experience. Incontinence is a common problem and Doctors will quickly be able to recognise which treatment methods are the best for you.
Before you seek treatment for overflow incontinence, it is important to ensure it is correctly diagnosed. Doctors often provide you with a test to help determine which type of incontinence you have. This involves ascertaining whether you leak any urine when you cough to rule out the possibility that you may have stress incontinence. When you visit a GP, Doctor or Urologist, they can make a diagnosis and recommend a treatment plan.
Treating and managing overflow incontinence may include:
> Suprapubic catheter. This is placed through an incision in the lower abdomen into the bladder to allow urine to drain and be collected outside the body.
> Clear intermittent catheterisation (CIC). When needed, a thin tube called a catheter is inserted by the individual into their bladder to drain urine and to make sure the bladder is empty. Special training is given.
> Indwelling catheter. This can be placed through the urethra into the bladder so urine can drain and be collected outside the body.
The method of treatment for overflow incontinence can also be specific depending on the cause. Treatment for problems affecting the bladder may include preventing constipation, having an operation for a man’s enlarged prostate, or a procedure to remove a bladder stone.
In addition to seeking treatment for your condition, it is useful to be proactive and invest in the correct products for managing your condition. This can help you to feel confident and ensure you stay dry throughout the day.