Functional Urinary Incontinence

What is functional urinary incontinence?

Functional (transient) urinary incontinence is a loss of bladder control, usually because of another health condition. This type of incontinence is common in nursing homes.

What is the cause?

Some of the problems that can cause functional incontinence are:

  • Confusion
  • Infection
  • Thinning and irritation of the vaginal tissues in older women
  • Medicines that affect your thinking ability, such as sleeping pills
  • Medicines that increase the amount of urine your body makes, such as diuretics (water pills) used to treat high blood pressure
  • A physical problem that makes it hard or unable to get to the bathroom in time
  • Constipation

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may include:

  • Constant leaking of urine
  • Not being able to hold your urine long enough to get to the toilet
  • A smell of urine on your clothes and in the house

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history and examine you. Blood and urine samples will be checked for infection or other problems.

You may be referred to a specialist for further testing or treatment.

How is it treated?

Treatment depends on what is causing the problem. For example, if arthritis makes it harder to remove clothing, it helps to wear clothing that is easy to remove. If medicines cause a problem, your healthcare provider may be able to prescribe different medicine. Other treatments include:

  • Bladder training, which teaches you to empty the bladder on schedule rather than waiting until you feel the urge. For example, you might sit on the toilet 20 to 30 minutes after each meal, at least twice between meals, and before you go to bed. You can adjust the schedule as you learn the frequency that works best. You can even set a timer to remind you when bathroom visits are due.
  • Incontinence pads and undergarments
  • A collecting device fitted over a man’s penis to hold urine
  • A catheter inserted into the bladder to drain urine

How can I take care of myself?

Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your healthcare provider. In addition:

  • Find ways to stay within easy reach of a bathroom.
  • To help keep your bladder from getting too full, be sure to empty your bladder every 2 to 4 hours during the day and before you go to bed.
  • Have a night-light and grab bars in the bathroom to help prevent falls when you are in a hurry.
  • Don’t try to control urine leakage by cutting back on fluids. It won’t help and may be harmful.
  • Keep your genital area as clean and dry as possible.
  • Avoid things that can irritate the bladder, such as alcohol, carbonated drinks, coffee or tea, chocolate, citrus fruits, tomatoes, or acidic fruit juices.

Ask your provider:

  • How and when you will hear your test results
  • If there are activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
  • How to take care of yourself at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-12-05
Last reviewed: 2014-12-08
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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