Functional incontinence

Functional incontinence occurs when something makes it hard for a person to reach or use a bathroom in time to urinate and there is an involuntary release of urine. In functional incontinence, there is not a medical reason, such as muscle weakness in the urinary tract, for a release of urine.

Functional incontinence may occur when a disability prevents a person from reaching a bathroom in time to urinate, or a confused person is unable to locate the bathroom in time. Buckles or zippers that take too long to open also may result in a person's functional incontinence.

Treatment may involve changing the physical setting or clothing to make it easier to reach the toilet in time. In some cases of physical or mental impairment, a caregiver may prompt the person when it is time to go into the bathroom (prompted voiding).

Last Updated: September 17, 2008

Author: Sandy Jocoy, RN

Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Avery L. Seifert, MD - Urology

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