Overflow or drip incontinence is when the bladder is almost literally “overflowing”. Because people with overflow incontinence are not able to empty the bladder entirely, the bladder becomes overfilled, eventually resulting in drips of overflow urine.
An estimated 10 to 15% percent of people with incontinence suffer from overflow incontinence. In contrast to other types of incontinence, such as stress incontinence and urge incontinence, this type of incontinence occurs more often in men than in women. In addition, overflow incontinence is more common in older people.
How the bladder works:
In order to understand overflow incontinence, it is important to know how the bladder itself works. Urine is produced in the kidneys, from there the urine flows to the bladder through tubes called ureters. When the bladder is full, it squeezes and sends the urine out through the urethra. If there is a lot of urine in the bladder, the area between the ureters and the urethra is slightly stretched.
This activates nerves in the bladder wall and sends a signal to the brain that the bladder is filling. This happens when the bladder reaches a volume of about 0.2 liters, but the pressure intensifies as the bladder fills. At the bottom of the bladder is the opening of the urethra, which is where the urine leaves the body.
When the brain receives the signal, it stimulates the muscles around the bladder wall to contract and send a signal to the sphincter to relax so that the person can urinate. Overflow incontinence occurs if the sensory nerves or the muscles around the bladder do not function properly, making it impossible or difficult to urinate.
Causes of overflow incontinence:
While gender and age are not direct causes of overflow incontinence, most cases of overflow incontinence seem to arise in older men, since overflow incontinence is often related to prostate problems that can arise from the growth of the prostate that goes along with aging. Because the prostate is positioned against the urethra, it can compress the urethra, making less room for the urine, resulting in the man no longer being able to empty the entire bladder.
In women, swelling in the ovaries or prolapse of the uterus can cause overflow incontinence, while kidney stones in the urethra and operations of or around the bladder can (temporarily) cause overflow incontinence. Things like diabetes, or the use of certain medications such as antidepressants, may also be contributing factors for both men and women.
Solutions for overflow incontinence:
Because overflow incontinence can eventually lead to kidney problems, consulting a doctor in time is very important. Overflow incontinence cannot always be distinguished from other types of incontinence, so a doctor will often perform a physical examination in addition to asking the patient to keep a urination diary.
Many men live with overflow incontinence and other prostate problems for a long time without addressing it. By addressing the issue early, the cause can be examined in time, preventing uncomfortable and serious side effects.