Could you have functional incontinence?
There are lots of kinds of incontinence, caused by all kinds of factors.
While many of these conditions are down to problems with the bladder or the muscles surrounding it, functional incontinence is often caused by other difficulties.
Some people are physically able to urinate, but problems like disability can make it difficult to get to the loo in time.
If you or someone you are close to is suffering from functional incontinence, you are not alone. Here we take a look at what the condition is, and how you can deal with it.
What is functional incontinence?
Functional incontinence means that urine leaks and accidents occur because you are unable to use the loo in time. When urine collects in the bladder, there is only so long you can hold on before the muscles around the bladder involuntarily release.
Causes of functional incontinence
The condition is usually caused by wider problems being experienced. While many of these become more common in old age, all kinds of people, of all ages, genders and ethnicities, can experience functional incontinence. The main causes fall into physical and mental problems.
- Impaired mobility: Those having difficulty getting from one place to another might be unable to get to a toilet in time when they feel they need to go. This could include some wheelchair users, others with difficulty walking, sufferers of epilepsy, and even those with sensory impairment.
- Impaired dexterity: Because a trip to the toilet involves using your hands, those with dexterity problems might be unable to use the loo on their own. This can affect people with neurological and degenerative diseases like Multiple Sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and arthritis.
- Anxiety: Some people are unable to use toilets, especially in a public setting, due to an anxiety disorder. This can mean that even when someone is aware they need to go to the loo, it would cause them to much distress to do so.
- Physical problems with mental effects: Some physical, neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s have severe mental consequences. This can mean that someone is unable to recognise when it is time to go to the loo, or may even have trouble remembering where to go.
Coping with Functional Incontinence
This kind of incontinence can be distressing, both for the sufferer and for those close to them. If this is a problem for you or someone you care about, there are lots of ways to approach the issue. Actions you can take depend on the reasons behind difficulty getting to the loo.
In terms of coping with the issue in the short term, it is a good idea to use absorbent pads or underwear. These mean that, even where someone is unable to get to the loo, the situation is kept under control. Absorbent underwear is kinder to both the environment and your wallet, and you don’t have to keep throwing the product away and buying more. You can simply wash the underwear at the end of the day, and use it again.
When looking to solve the problem in the long term, you should consider adapting the environment of those with physical and neurological impairments to make it as easy as possible for them to get to the toilet. This can involve having an assessment of the person’s needs carried out. They might even be entitled to financial help with both personal care and having changes made to the home.
While they aren’t as common as physical causes of functional incontinence, mental causes should be taken very seriously. If you or another is experiencing anxiety that means you can’t use the toilet when you need to, you should seek advice from your doctor. You can receive therapies and treatments on the NHS to help you overcome your problem.