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
  • 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.


Functional incontinence is treated by
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.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD – Internal Medicine
Adam Husney, MD – Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Avery L. Seifert, MD – Urology

Current as ofMay 5, 2017