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Overflow Incontinence

Women who have overflow incontinence cannot completely empty urine from their bladder. Because they retain a large amount of urine at all times, they periodically leak. Activities such as changing positions typically trigger leaks.

There are two reasons they retain urine. A blockage, typically caused by a tumor or previous surgery, is one reason. This, however, is more common in men due to an enlarged prostate. The second possibility is a “lazy” or underactive bladder. Nerve damage can impede the bladder from contracting efficiently during urination. Diabetes is the most common cause of this condition.

What are the symptoms of overflow incontinence?

Some patients show symptoms of stress incontinence or urge incontinence. Others have no symptoms at all and may not even realize they are not emptying their bladder.

How is overflow incontinence treated?

The options for managing overflow incontinence are limited. The first goal is to reverse obstructions, if they are present. Once obstructions are removed, options include:

  • Doing nothing. Although leaks can be inconvenient and embarrassing, patients can choose not to treat their condition. The only concern is that long-term urinary retention can lead to recurrent bladder infections and possibly long-term effects on the kidneys.
  • Medication. Some medications can improve bladder emptying by either relaxing the outlet of the bladder or making the bladder contract more effectively. Results are mixed.
  • Using a catheter regularly. A catheter is a small tube that goes through the urethra to drain urine from the bladder. Our center can teach you to insert one yourself, so you can empty your bladder on a schedule. Self-catheterization is relatively easy and effective.
  • Stimulating the bladder nerve. This is accomplished with the placement of an implant that is similar to a pacemaker. The procedure, called sacral neuromodulation, involves putting a generator in the buttocks and connecting it to a wire resting near the sacral nerve that comes from the bladder. The generator sends out electrical impulses that can regulate the signals that cause the bladder to retain urine. This outpatient procedure is an appealing option for patients whose condition has not improved using conventional treatments.
  • Surgery. Surgical options are available if no other treatment is effective.

ChristianaCare Center for Urogynecology and Pelvic Surgery

Christiana Hospital
Medical Arts Pavilion 2
4735 Ogletown-Stanton Road, Suite 1208, Newark, DE 19713 directions
fax 302-623-4056

ChristianaCare Concord Health Center
161 Wilmington-West Chester Pike, Chadds Ford, PA 19317 directions
610-361-1030, option 9

Smyrna Health & Wellness Center
100 S. Main Street, Suite 215
Smyrna, DE 19977 directions

Wilmington Hospital
501 West 14th Street
Gateway Building, 2nd Floor
Wilmington, DE 19801