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Functional Incontinence: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Functional Incontinence Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

According to the Urology Care Foundation1, 25% to 33% of the US population suffers from urinary incontinence. 

Though it may be cause for frustration to experience this, it is something that a large percentage of the population has to go through — so you are definitely not alone in suffering from this. 

Incontinence can be of many different kinds - stress, urge, overflow, mixed, and functional incontinence.

If you feel that you have any type of incontinence, it is crucial to consult a doctor.

This guide will discuss functional incontinence, its causes, its symptoms, and its treatments. We'll also look at some of the best products to help you manage your incontinence issues.

What Is Functional Incontinence?

Functional incontinence, sometimes referred to as disability associated incontinence, is when a person is unable to do the following: 

  • Recognize the need to go to the toilet
  • Locate and access the toilet
  • Handle themselves on a toilet
  • Recognize the toilet

In most cases of urinary incontinence, patients struggle with controlling their bladder. However, those struggling with functional incontinence face problems with getting to the toilet and using it when they need to.

These people might not even realize that they need to use the restroom due to underlying psychological issues.


Causes of Functional Incontinence

Functional incontinence could be a result of either physical limitations, mental struggles, or both. Here are a few issues that could potentially cause functional incontinence:

  • Psychological issues
  • Weak bladder muscles
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Poor vision
  • Impairment in joints
  • Weak pelvic floor muscles
  • Environmental barriers
  • Muscular limitations
  • Blockage due to an enlarged prostate

One of the common reasons that keeps patients from getting to the bathroom on time is moving from a wheelchair to a toilet, or removing clothing in the required time.

These issues could be a result of musculoskeletal conditions, such as arthritis or back pain. Neurological complications, such as multiple sclerosis (MS) or Parkinson's disease, could also cause functional incontinence.

Patients with dementia or Alzheimer's disease might not be able to think very clearly and plan their washroom visits, or be able to remember where the restroom is.

Additionally, those struggling with severe depression may give up on self-care, and lose the desire to go and use a toilet.

Essentially, any issues related to thinking, communicating, or movement may lead to functional incontinence. Moreover, some places do not have proper restroom facilities for those with special needs, which can exacerbate this issue.

Sometimes, medicines can cause functional incontinence as well. Severe incontinence is common once patients rise into the 70-80 year age bracket2.

Symptoms Of Functional Incontinence

Urine leakage is the primary and most easily noticeable symptom of functional incontinence. It could be small quantities, or the entire bladder.

Other signs and symptoms include:

  • Wetting the bed during sleep
  • Leaking during daily activities
  • Leaking without any urge to urinate
  • Strong and sudden urges to use the restroom 

Bladder doctor diagnose functional incontinence

How is Functional Incontinence Diagnosed?

Doctors typically suspect functional incontinence when they feel that other medical conditions make it difficult for the patient to get to the bathroom.

A physical exam, some tests, and a complete study of the patient's medical history are usually required to confirm the diagnosis. The discussion will likely include diet, exercise habits, hydration, and mobility.

The doctor might even ask the patient to perform simple maneuvers, such as coughing, as a part of the diagnosis.

Sometimes, doctors perform a urinalysis to inspect the urine for abnormalities.

Best Products To Manage Functional Incontinence

Here's a quick look at some of the best products to manage functional incontinence:



Prevail Ultra-Thin Incontinence Pads for Women, 9.5", Light absorbency, Individually-wrapped, Secure fit



1.    Prevail Ultra-Thin Incontinence Pads

These Ultra-Thin Incontinence Pads by Prevail are exclusively meant for use by women. They are extremely comfortable, and allow users to go about their day without worry. Moreover, they have a very secure fit.


  • Each pad is wrapped individually for convenience and efficiency.
  • Ultra-thin pads ensure discretion.
  • Prevents slight bladder leakage with light absorbency (20 ounces of fluid).
  • Cotton materials keep your skin soft and healthy.
  • Secure fit ensures comfort and relaxation.
  • Strong adhesive keeps the pad in place and prevents any slipping.

2.    Prevail Incontinence Guards

Prevail Incontinence Guards for men are extremely breathable and secure. They keep the skin dry and safe at all times. Equipped with maximum absorbency, their versatile sizing fits almost everyone.


  • MaxSoft Technology rapidly wicks moisture away from the skin.
  • Comes with top-of-the-line odor prevention substances to keep you fresh.
  • Designed in a manner to maintain a comfortable temperature at all times.
  • Contoured cup design fits well around the male anatomy.
  • Ideal for those who suffer from stress incontinence, post-operational leakage, or dribbling.
  • Fits well and doesn't mess with your daily routine.
  • Sleek and discreet design.

3.    Tranquility Select Unisex Incontinence Pad

Tranquility's Select Unisex Incontinence Pads are suitable for both women and men. They are impressively soft, which helps prevent rashes. These pads are ultra-absorbent and keep you clean, dry, and fresh at all times. Best suited for bladder weakness during pregnancy and urinary incontinence.


  • Individually wrapped pads for increased convenience and portability.
  • Cotton-like material absorbs plenty of moisture and ensures breathability.
  • Delicate top sheet reduces friction and prevents rashes.
  • Ultra-absorbent core with fluid diffusion channels prevents leakage.
  • Adhesive strips ensure that the pad remains in place.
  • Zero fragrance and zero latex make it ideal for long time use. 

Caroli Unisex Incontinence Pullup Underwear, Heavy absorbency, Odor-locking

4.    Caroli Unisex Incontinence Pullup Underwear

Caroli's Incontinence Pullup Underwear are designed for protection against heavy incontinence. They are highly secure, so you do not need to worry about your clothes getting damaged. You can use them even if you have sensitive skin.


  • Can absorb up to 34 ounces of fluid.
  • Powerful odor control system minimizes the intensity of smells by 50% to 60%.
  • Smooth yet firm design eliminates any noise and remains discreet.
  • Designed in a way to provide extra protection in areas that usually suffer breaches.
  • Made with cloth-like materials to imitate regular underwear.
  • Independent third-party testing ensures zero skin irritation.
  • Packaging and delivery maintain secrecy.

5.    TENA Extra Disposable Underpad

The Extra Disposable Underpads from TENA are made for heavy-duty absorbency. They do not contain any latex, to soothe sensitive skin. Ideal for those struggling with accidental urine leakage, elderly folks, and patients recovering from surgeries. These are also fit for bariatric care, and won't bust your budget.


  • Large dimensions ensure maximum coverage.
  • Super-absorbent polymer core offers maximum protection against leakage.
  • Moisture-proof lining keeps the skin safe.
  • Soft and breathable top layer reduces irritation and rashes.
  • Waterproof backing locks in liquids and keeps surfaces dry.
  • Immediate absorption ensures odor control and comfort.
  • Discreet packaging and delivery ensures privacy.

Closing Thoughts

Incontinence should not be treated as a light matter. If left unchecked, it could negatively affect a person's health and wellbeing.

Studies have found that decreasing obesity and diabetes could make incontinence less stressful3. As such, patients are always advised to focus on developing positive habits, and following healthy routines as much as possible. Incontinence products can help ease the burden, and help you get back to living life the way you did beforehand.

Functional Incontinence


  1.  "What Is Urinary Incontinence?", Urology Care Foundation.
  2. Nitti V. W. (2001). "The prevalence of urinary incontinence". Reviews in urology, 3 Suppl 1(Suppl 1), S2–S6.
  3. Markland, Alayne D et al. "Prevalence and trends of urinary incontinence in adults in the United States, 2001 to 2008." The Journal of urology vol. 186,2 (2011): 589-93. doi:10.1016/j.juro.2011.03.114

Disclaimer: The information presented here is purely for educational purposes and should not be used in place of the advice of your doctor or physician.