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What You Need to Know about Functional Incontinence

July 03, 2014 2 min read

There are several type of urinary incontinences. We’ve talked extensively about stress incontinence and urge incontinence, however there is one type of incontinence you may not know much about: functional incontinence.

What is Functional Incontinence?

Functional incontinence is caused by an inability to reach the bathroom before it’s too late. Most of these problems can be attributed to physical ailments, vision impairments or cognitive impairment. In most cases, people with functional incontinence have a normal-functioning bladder; they just experience problems that in the way of the toilet.

Who is at Risk for Functional Incontinence?

Anyone with an illness or condition that prevents them from safely getting to the bathroom can be at risk for functional incontinence. These people may suffer from arthritis or joint pains and have trouble standing up, taking off their clothes and sitting down on the toilet. Individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia may not be cognitive enough to know when their bladder is full and therefore, wet themselves. Obese individuals, bedridden patients and people who use a wheelchair may also have difficulty getting to the bathroom before having an accident.

Treatments for Functional Incontinence

Treatment for functional incontinence depends on what is preventing the sufferer from reaching the toilet in time:

  • If you have weak hands or suffer from arthritis, it’s best to wear clothing that’s easy to take off. Opt for bottoms with elastic waistbands or snap buttons instead of loop buttons and zippers.
  • This next tip applies to everyone, but especially to those with poor vision or balance problems: make sure the pathway to the bathroom is clear to avoid trips and falls.
  • Individuals with mobility and balance issues may benefit from having safety rail installed by the toilet.
  • People with vision problems should keep the pathway to the bathroom well-lit in the middle of the night. Leaving a nightlight on in the bathroom can also help prevent injuries and falls.
  • Bedridden patients may find it easier and safer to use a bedside commode or portable urinal, rather than trying to rush to the bathroom.
  • Alzheimer’s patients and other individuals with impaired mental functioning should practice prompted voiding. Caregivers should remind these individuals to use the bathroom on a regular basis, such as every two hours.
  • Lastly, absorbent undergarments, such as adult briefs (adult diapers) and incontinence pads, offer convenient ways for incontinent individuals to manage their bladder control problems. Those who opt to wear protective undergarments must also be changed often to prevent rashes and pressure sores.

Functional incontinence, and all other types of incontinence, can be prevented and treated. If you or your loved one is experiencing involuntary bladder leakages, contact a doctor as soon as possible.


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