Main content

    Health Information

    Functional Incontinence

    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

    This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

    1995-2013 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.