Topic Overview

What is overflow incontinence?

Overflow incontinence is the involuntary release of
urine-due to a weak bladder muscle or to blockage-when the bladder becomes
overly full, even though the person feels no urge to urinate.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of overflow incontinence include:

  • The sudden release of urine.
  • A feeling
    of fullness in the bladder even after urination.
  • Leakage of urine
    while sleeping.
  • A urine stream that stops and restarts during
  • Difficulty urinating even while feeling the urge to

What causes overflow incontinence?

Overflow incontinence in both men and women can be caused by:

  • Conditions that affect the
    nerves (such as
    diabetes or
    multiple sclerosis) and alter a person’s ability to
    sense bladder fullness or that reduce the ability of the bladder to contract.
  • A blockage in the
    urinary tract, such as a
    bladder stone or a urinary tract tumor that constricts
    urethra. When blockage occurs in men, it is usually caused by an enlarged prostate gland (benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH), cancer of the prostate, or a narrowing of the urethra.
  • Weakness in the muscle that
    expels urine from the bladder (detrusor) so that it can’t empty the bladder
  • Certain medicines.

How is it treated?

In women

Women can be treated for overflow incontinence with:

  • A catheter. A catheter is a thin, flexible tube that allows urine to drain out. It is inserted
    into the bladder through the urethra. Different types of catheters include:

  • Surgery. Surgery may be needed to correct problems that cause overflow
    incontinence, such as obstructions or abnormal growths in the urinary tract.

Medicines are rarely used to treat overflow incontinence in women.

In men

Men can be treated for overflow incontinence with:

  • Surgery. Overflow incontinence caused by an enlarged prostate is often treated with surgery to remove the
    obstruction, including
    transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP), a
    common procedure used to treat BPH.
  • A catheter. Some men may need a catheter to allow
    the bladder to empty normally.
  • Medicine. Medicines can be used to make the prostate smaller. This relieves pressure on the urethra so the bladder can empty more normally. Medicines can also help the urine flow better.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD – Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Avery L. Seifert, MD – Urology

Current as ofMay 5, 2017