In the field of urinary incontinence, stress incontinence (where sudden pressure on the pelvic floor muscles results in leakage) and urge incontinence (where miss-messaging between the brain and the bladder wall muscles leads to untimely contractions) are the most prevalent types. However, there is another form of incontinence – known as overflow incontinence – which is very real and also distinctly from stress and urge incontinence in terms of symptoms, cause and treatment. Another factor which separates it from the other, perhaps more common forms of urinary incontinence, is the fact it’s more common amongst men than women.
What is Overflow Incontinence?
Overflow Incontinence is a condition whereby the bladder is unable to completely empty when urinating; the cycle of excess urine that’s not emptied leads to irritation of the bladder wall resulting in unpredictable contractive actions. In other words, the bladder wall, urethra and pelvic floor muscles aren’t in synergy. The types of symptoms that indicate overflow incontinence are feeling unable to urinate even when you feel the urge and an unnatural amount of leakage (particularly just after urinating).
The underlying medical reasons can be broadly separated into root causes. The first is when the prostate gland – located underneath the bladder, in front of the rectum and wraps around the urethra – has become enlarged and thus obstructs the passage of urine. The second is when damage or complications to sacral nerves, causing a lack or sensory urge – when this happens, a person simply cannot feel how full their bladder is and it eventually ‘overflows’ – this is know as a neurogenic bladder.
Both result in a stretching of the bladder wall, which in turn, weakens it. Therefore the condition can exasperate over time.
Why does this develop?
The first root cause can happen as the result of several things, most commonly; a benign prosthetic hypertrophy (BPH), urinary stones and tumours. The second root cause often results from complications of medical surgery, birth defects that materialise with age and injury inflicted on the spinal chord. Diseases such diabetes and polio have been linked to instances of a neurogenic bladder.
What are the treatments?
In the instance where BPH, urinary stones or tumours enlarge the prostate gland, the incontinence cannot be cured until these underlying medical conditions have been addressed and remedied themselves.
With a neurogenic bladder, the only proven way of curbing overflow incontinence is using catheterization techniques to consistently empty the bladder – as only by consistently emptying the bladder completely will the overflow urinary incontinence be eliminated in the risk of infection decreased.