Understanding & Managing Overflow Incontinence – Boom Home Medical
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Overflow Incontinence: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

by Valerie Ulene 03 Apr 2024

Urinary incontinence--or the involuntary loss of urine--affects a huge number of men and women and impacts their lives in all sorts of ways. Some people stop exercising because physical activity causes them to leak urine; others avoid leaving the house to run errands or meet friends for fear they won’t be able to access a toilet. For individuals with severe incontinence, bladder leaks are far more than just an inconvenience. They are truly life-changing.

There are several different types of urinary incontinence. In this article, we’ll talk about overflow incontinence – what causes it, how it’s diagnosed, and the options and products available to treat and manage it.

What is Overflow Incontinence?

Overflow incontinence occurs when the bladder is unable to empty completely, causing it to become overdistended and leak.

Overflow incontinence is less common than other types of urinary incontinence, accounting for only about five percent of long-term incontinence (1).

There are two primary reasons why overflow incontinence develops:

  • The muscle responsible for squeezing and emptying the bladder—the ‘detrusor muscle’—is not functioning properly
  • An anatomical blockage (or ‘bladder outlet obstruction’) stops urine from flowing out of the bladder

Causes of Overflow Incontinence

  • Certain medications can affect the way the detrusor muscle works and contribute to overflow incontinence.
  • Overflow incontinence can develop if the nerves that stimulate the detrusor muscle are damaged. Diabetes, spinal cord injuries, and neurologic diseases like multiple sclerosis all have the potential to cause this type of nerve damage.
  • A blockage at the base of the bladder reduces the flow of urine into the urethra (the tube that carries urine out of the body). In men, this type of bladder outlet obstruction is usually caused by an enlarged prostate while in women prolapse of the bladder or uterus are usually responsible. (Prolapse occurs when the pelvic muscles weaken and cause pelvic organs like the bladder and uterus to droop.)

Symptoms of Overflow Incontinence

  • Frequent or constant dribbling 
  • Straining to empty your bladder completely
  • Feeling fullness in your bladder even after you’ve voided
  • Trouble urinating even when you feel like you need to pee
  • A urine stream that starts and stops
  • Nighttime leakage

Overflow incontinence can have a huge impact on people's day-to-day life. Many people find symptoms difficult to manage in social situations or at work, or even while trying to sleep. Sometimes, people with overflow incontinence adjust what they do and where they go to avoid embarrassing accidents, leading to feeling of isolation and depression (2)

Treating & Managing Overflow Incontinence

Fortunately, there are things that can be done to improve symptoms of overflow incontinence, ranging from simple lifestyle modifications to surgery. 

Lifestyle Modifications

A number of lifestyle factors exacerbate overflow incontinence and simple changes in  your habits and behavior can often have a big impact on symptoms.

  • Fluid intake. Drinking large amounts of liquids all at once can cause the bladder to quickly overfill. Instead, try consuming smaller amounts of fluids slowly over the course of the day.
  • Caffeine. Caffeine can be an issue when it comes to incontinence. That’s, at least in part, because caffeine acts as a mild diuretic and makes you urinate more. So, if you suffer from incontinence, it’s probably best to limit your consumption of coffee, soda, and energy drinks. Eliminating them entirely is probably unnecessary, but cutting back to see if your urinary symptoms improve is easy to do and likely worthwhile. 
  • Body weight. Weight loss, in those who are overweight, may improve incontinence symptoms. (3) This is worth considering if your body mass index (BMI) is above the healthy range.
  • Double Voiding. Double voiding is a technique where you urinate, wait a few minutes, and then try to go again. This can be particularly helpful for individuals with overflow incontinence, preventing the need for repeated trips to the bathroom.
  • Medications. Some medications can worsen symptoms of overflow incontinence so it’s important for your healthcare provider to review all of your current medications.

Products for Managing Overflow Incontinence

Sometimes, the little things can be the big things. If you struggle with overflow incontinence, these simple accessories may make a difference.

Loona Beside Urinal
Because the bladder slowly fills as you sleep, nighttime leaks are a common symptom of overflow incontinence. Waking up repeatedly to empty your bladder is not only inconvenient, it’s actually dangerous, as nighttime trips to the bathroom pose a high risk for slips and falls.

Fortunately, there’s a solution: Loona. Loona is a portable urinal designed for the female anatomy that can be used at night standing or sitting on the edge of a bed. Its unique design makes it quiet to use, so you’re less likely to wake a partner in the middle of the night.

Loona also comes in handy during the daytime.

If you have overflow incontinence and are worried about finding a bathroom when you’re out of the house, take Loona with you on the go.

All you need is a private place to use it; its snap-close lid will protect against spills.

Boom Absorbent Underwear
Boom Absorbent Underwear is great for women who have frequent, light leaks. Its three-layer protection keeps you confident and dry throughout the day, and it comes in two attractive styles—Classic and Lace! 

Medical Interventions & Treatments for Overflow Incontinence

Sometimes medical interventions are needed to help ensure that the bladder empties regularly and completely.

  • Medications: Your healthcare provider may recommend drugs known as alpha-blockers (e.g. terazosin or tamsulosin) to improve your symptoms. These medications relax the muscles around the bladder and allow you to urinate more easily.
  • Catheterization: A catheter is a soft tube that is inserted into the bladder through the urethra to drain urine. Catheterization can be performed intermittently at home to avoid overfilling and overflow incontinence.
  • Surgery: In some cases, a procedure or surgery may be needed to clear a bladder outlet obstruction and improve the flow of urine. If, for example, an enlarged prostate is the problem, a procedure to reduce its size might be indicated.

Key Takeaways

Overflow incontinence can be a challenging condition to manage. It’s important to remember that you’re not alone—there are people and resources to help. If you haven’t done so already, consider consulting with a healthcare professional.  Although talking about incontinence can be difficult, it’s an important discussion to have. 

Also, do your best to stay engaged with family and friends and remain active. Although overflow incontinence can make it difficult, staying emotionally and physically strong will make coping with your symptoms easier.


Can lifestyle changes alone manage overflow incontinence?

Many people find that lifestyle modifications are enough to manage their symptoms of overflow incontinence. However, if your symptoms are severe and disruptive, you may require some form of medical treatment to help get things under control.

Where can I find additional support and resources for overflow incontinence?

Start by speaking to your doctor. They can refer you to specialists who can provide you with advice and a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs.

Where can I find more information about the Loona?

Here’s everything you need to know about the Loona portable urinal, including a detailed description of it and recommendations on how and when to use it. 


1. Christine Khandelwal and Christine Kistler, Diagnosis of Urinary Incontinence

2. Sallis O. Yip MD, Madeline A. Dick MD, Alexandra M. McPencow MD, Deanna K. Martin MPH, Maria M. Ciarleglio PhD, Elisabeth A. Erekson MD, MPH, The Association Between Urinary And Fecal Incontinence And Social Isolation In Older Women

3. Mari Imamura, Kate Williams, Mandy Wells, Catherine McGrother, and Cochrane Incontinence Group, Lifestyle interventions for the treatment of urinary incontinence in adults


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