Overflow incontinence in women

Overflow incontinence is the involuntary release of urine—due to a weak bladder muscle or to blockage—when the bladder becomes overly full, even though the woman feels no urge to urinate.


Symptoms of overflow incontinence include:

  • Sudden release of urine.
  • A feeling of fullness in the bladder even after urination.
  • Leakage of urine while sleeping.
  • A urine stream that stops and restarts during urination.
  • Difficulty urinating even while feeling the urge to urinate.


Overflow incontinence can be caused by conditions that affect the nerves (such as diabetes or multiple sclerosis) and alter a person's ability to sense bladder fullness or that reduce the ability of the bladder to contract. It can also be caused by a blockage in the urinary tract, such as a bladder stone or a urinary tract tumor that constricts the urethra.


Medications are rarely used to treat overflow incontinence.

Surgery may be needed to correct problems that result in overflow incontinence, such as obstructions or abnormal growths in the urinary tract.

Mechanical devices, such as intermittent self-catheterization, in which a person inserts a clean catheter when it is necessary to urinate, may be used to treat overflow urinary incontinence. If intermittent self-catheterization cannot be performed, continuous catheter drainage may be necessary.

Last Updated: September 17, 2008

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