Skip to content

Incontinence & Overactive Bladder Health Center

Font Size

Overflow Incontinence - 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 urination.
  • Difficulty urinating even while feeling the urge to urinate.

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 camera.gif, such as a bladder stone or a urinary tract tumor that constricts the 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 normally.
  • 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.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: September 11, 2012
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
    1
    Next Article:

    Overflow Incontinence Topics

    Today on WebMD

    Incontinence Women Slideshow
    SLIDESHOW
    exam room
    Slideshow
     
    Public restroom door sign
    Slideshow
    nachos and beer
    Article
     
    woman holding water
    Slideshow
    Food That Makes You Gotta Go
    Slideshow
     
    Male Incontinence Slideshow
    Slideshow
    sleepless woman
    Article
     
    Worried in bed
    Article
    woman standing in front of restroom sign
    Slideshow
     
    woman reading medicine bottle
    Quiz
    Woman on riverbank in autumn
    Slideshow