Understanding Overflow Incontinence: Causes, Management, and More

In This Article


Elsie Bradford, Physical Therapist


August 21, 2023

Overflow incontinence, a type of urinary incontinence, presents a challenge for many, causing a consistent dribble or leak of urine due to an overly full bladder. The ramifications of this condition can extend beyond physical symptoms, impacting daily routines and emotional well-being.

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Digging Deep into Overflow Incontinence

Defining Overflow Incontinence

Overflow incontinence can be visualized as a dam overflowing because it cannot hold back any more water. Similarly, the bladder, when it becomes overly full and can't empty itself completely, lets out urine involuntarily.

What causes this type of incontinence?

The chief culprit behind overflow incontinence is urinary retention, which can have several root causes:

  • Diabetes-induced increased urine production or side effects of medications such as diuretics.
  • Obstructions in the bladder or urethra, which can result from an enlarged prostate or other blockages.
  • Degradation of bladder muscles or nerve damage, which prevent the bladder from emptying fully.

For instance, a person with an obstruction from an enlarged prostate may not completely empty their bladder, leading to consistent dribbling.

The Interplay Between Overflow Incontinence and Constipation

The relationship between overflow urinary incontinence and constipation cannot be ignored. Constipation, or the hardening of stool in the large intestine, can exert undue pressure on the bladder. This physical pressure restricts the bladder's ability to expand fully, increasing urinary leakage risk. Therefore, maintaining regular bowel movements is essential for managing this type of incontinence.

Recognizing and Diagnosing Overflow Incontinence

Symptoms to Look Out For

The hallmark sign of overflow incontinence is a consistent dribble of urine. However, other symptoms include:

  • Frequent urination but in small amounts.
  • A feeling of incomplete bladder emptying.
  • Straining when trying to urinate.

Diagnostic Procedures

Accurate diagnosis is crucial for effective treatment. Healthcare professionals may employ:

  • Urinalysis to check for infections or blood in the urine.
  • Abdominal ultrasound for a visual examination of the bladder and related organs.
  • Urodynamic testing, assessing how well the urinary tract stores and releases urine.

Addressing Overflow Incontinence

Natural Management Techniques

  • Bladder Training: Setting scheduled bathroom visits can prevent overfilling of the bladder.
  • Double Voiding: This method ensures the bladder is emptied fully by attempting to urinate again a few moments after the initial try.
  • Pelvic Floor Exercises: Kegel exercises, for instance, can strengthen the bladder's supportive muscles. Utilizing the Best Kegel Exercisers can enhance this effort.

Medical Interventions

Depending on the root cause, several treatments may be applicable:

  • Medications: Some drugs can shrink an enlarged prostate or address other underlying causes.
  • Surgeries: Procedures to remove obstructions can be beneficial.
  • Catheterization: Temporary or permanent catheterization can assist in bladder emptying.

The Social and Emotional Impact of Overflow Incontinence

While the physical implications of this condition are evident, the psychological toll can't be understated. The constant worry of leaks can lead to social anxiety and even depression. It's imperative for sufferers to seek both medical and emotional support to manage the condition holistically.


Overflow incontinence, though daunting, is not insurmountable. A combination of lifestyle adjustments, exercises, and, when needed, medical interventions can make a significant difference. It's essential for those affected to remember they're not alone and that help is available.


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