Overview of Overflow Incontinence

In overflow incontinence, patients never feel the urge to urinate, the bladder never empties, and small amounts of urine leak continuously. Overflow incontinence is prevalent in older men with an enlarged prostate (BPH) and is rare in women.

Signs and Symptoms of Overflow Incontinence

Overflow incontinence symptoms include the following:

  • Bladder never feels empty
  • Frequent nighttime urinate
  • Inability to void, even when the urge is felt
  • Urine dribbles, even after voiding

Causes of Overflow Incontinence

Conditions that may lead to overflow incontinence include the following:

Overflow incontinence is a common symptom of benign prostatic hyperplasia. The prostate is located directly beneath the bladder and in front of the rectum. The upper portion of the urethra passes through the prostate, so when the gland becomes enlarged it may obstruct the passage of urine through the urethra.

Neurogenic bladder associated with overflow incontinence is caused by the loss of sensation of bladder fullness due to damage or obstruction of sacral nerves (located in the five vertebrae above the sacrum). This may result from certain types of surgery on the spinal cord, sacral spinal tumors, or birth defects. It also may be a complication of various diseases such as diabetes mellitus and polio.

Tumors and urinary stones can block the urethra and cause overflow incontinence.

Overflow Incontinence Diagnosis

Diagnosis of overflow incontinence involves identifying the type and severity of the disorder. Depending on the information gained from a standard medical history and physical examination, urologists may prescribe one or more diagnostic procedures to make an accurate diagnosis and develop an effective treatment plan.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 09 Jun 1998

Last Modified: 28 Sep 2015