woman overflow incontinence

Overflow Incontinence: Half Full or Half Empty?

Imagine this: you’re having one of the best dreams of your life. Something concerning one of your favorite actors and a trip somewhere tropical. Yeah, that dream. When suddenly out of nowhere, you jerk awake and feel a wet patch. Suddenly, you’re transported back in time to when you were younger and used to wet the bed. But this isn’t anything like when you were a kid. If waking up to a wet patch is something happening to you more frequently than usual, you may be experiencing overflow incontinence. 

What is Overflow Incontinence?

One of many incontinence types, overflow incontinence, is the inability to fully empty your bladder and it leads to unexpected and uncontrolled leaks later on. You may or may not even feel like your bladder is full, which can be quite troublesome and can also result in UTIs.

The Symptoms for Overflow Incontinence

If you’re unsure whether you’re suffering from overflow incontinence, here are some of the most common symptoms

  • Feeling like you can’t empty your bladder completely 
  • Leaking urine
  • You’re going to the bathroom a lot but not passing as much urine as you think you should
  • Wetting the bed at night 
  • Consistent bladder infections

What Causes Overflow Incontinence

So, how does someone even get overflow incontinence? Well, it’s usually due to one or more of the following

  • Blockages of the urethra. Blockages are caused by tumors, scar tissue, swelling from infection, urinary stones, or even the dropping of the bladder within the abdomen.
  • An injury to the nerves affecting the bladder
  • Weak bladder muscles, which in turn can’t squeeze the bladder completely empty
  • Some medications, such as antidepressants and anticonvulsants, can also cause overflow incontinence when they affect nerve signals to the bladder 

How Am I Diagnosed? 

To get a proper diagnosis of overflow incontinence, it is important to talk to your doctor. They can determine the diagnosis, and they’ll probably ask you a couple of questions like: 

  • When you go to the bathroom, do you have trouble starting or ending the pee session
  • Have you had constant UTIs
  • Do you feel pain or burning when urinating? 
  • Have you had a back injury?
  • Do you have a medical condition that could interrupt bladder function? 
  • Are you taking any specific medications?

Besides asking questions about symptoms, it’s not uncommon for them to also do a bladder stress test. This test helps to determine if leakage happens with coughing, sneezing, and other activities that put pressure on the bladder. Also, they’ll probably test you for kidney stones or bladder infections. 

As if that’s not enough, your doctor might also perform a physical exam to check the nerves close to the bladder and rectum for signs of nerve damage, as well as an ultrasound to visualize the inner organs like the bladder and kidneys. While it might sound like a lot, these tests help to make sure they get your diagnosis right so you can get the right treatment. Plus, Lily Bird is here to keep you protected with bladder leak pads and underwear while you work to figure everything out.

So, What’s The Treatment? 

Obviously, the first part of treatment is to get the overflow incontinence properly diagnosed by your doctor. The type of treatment you get largely depends on the cause and severity of symptoms, but some of the treatment options for overflow incontinence include: 

#1 Pelvic Floor Exercises

If weak bladder muscles are the blame for your random drips and spritz, pelvic floor exercises can help a lot. These exercises help you strengthen your pelvic floor, thus giving you more support and control. After all, you’re the boss here, not your bladder.  Pelvic floor exercises also help with pelvic floor endurance, which is important for contracting for longer periods of time. This comes in handy when you feel like you need to go but would like to hold it just a tad bit longer. 

#2 Bladder Training

This one is pretty self-explanatory. With bladder training, you’re going to the bathroom at certain times during the day, so your bladder doesn’t overfill. This can mean trips to the bathroom every 2 to 3 hours. 

#3 Medications

Your doctor will likely prescribe a medication from a group known as alpha-blockers. These types of drugs help with reducing the symptoms of overflow incontinence by relaxing a part of the urinary tract to allow urine to flow easier and help empty your bladder more efficiently. 

#4 Surgery

This type of treatment is most suitable for something like a kidney stone or tumor.

#5 Intermittent Self-catheterization

This is something to look into only if your symptoms of overflow incontinence are very severe, and you have the guidance of a medical professional, such as a urologist. 

#6 Back Up Support

A great bladder leak pad or underwear can go a long way to help put you at least with overflow incontinence, especially while you try some of the other solutions on this list. Lily Bird has you covered with bladder leak pads and underwear delivered right to your door. Plus, you can try 10 products for just a few bucks.

Coping With Overflow Incontinence

Whether it’s minor leakage or a giant wet patch that wakes you up in the middle of the night, overflow incontinence is quite disruptive to your everyday routine. Many women are afraid to look into it more because bladder leaks can cause a huge bout of self-consciousness. However, when the flow of things is just not right anymore (no pun intended), you should be comfortable discussing these symptoms with your medical provider. 

Overflow incontinence is one of many forms of incontinence that can take a minute to detail aloud. Still, it actually has a variety of treatment options that can either majorly improve or get rid of symptoms. So take the plunge today and talk to your doctor to get a proper diagnosis. That way, you can go back to getting a good night’s sleep and doing the things that you enjoy. 

Want a little back up reinforcement? Lily Bird has you covered with pads and underwear delivered right to your door. Start your trial today.

By Jessica Thomas, MPH