Functional Incontinence

Topic Overview

Functional incontinence occurs when some obstacle or disability makes it hard for you to reach or use a toilet in time to urinate. It is often caused by:

  • A problem with walking (such as needing a walker or crutches) that prevents you from reaching a toilet in time to urinate.
  • A medical condition (such as arthritis) that makes it hard for you to remove clothing before urinating.
  • A problem with reasoning (such as dementia) that keeps you from realizing that urination is necessary or from locating a bathroom.

Treatment

Functional incontinence is treated by using behavioral methods that teach you to urinate on a timed voiding schedule and by modifying your environment so you can get to and use the toilet more quickly. This may involve moving furniture, making clothes easier to remove, or making other changes.

Medicines aren't used to treat functional incontinence.

Continence products such as absorbent pads or disposable underwear are usually used when other methods of treating incontinence have failed or cannot be used. Men may also use an incontinence clamp or a pressure cuff. Women may also use a urethral insert or an external urethral barrier.

These methods don't treat the incontinence, but they may make it possible to manage the problem.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Avery L. Seifert, MD - Urology
Last Revised July 17, 2012

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