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Urinary tract pathology may be no more common in patients with arthritis than among the general population, but its impact may be enhanced by disability. In this survey of 247 patients, as many as 38% of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), 47% of patients with osteoarthritis (OA) and even 34% of patients with soft tissue rheumatism (STR) reported difficulty controlling their urine, confirming that incontinence is a widespread and often under-reported problem. More detailed enquiry in a sample of 90 patients with OA or RA did not suggest specific urinary tract pathology related to the underlying arthritis. Those who reported problems with urinary control were more disabled, and took longer to get to the toilet in their own environment than those without control problems. Twenty-seven per cent of patients felt that their problems would be solved by provision of a downstairs toilet. Timing of tasks performed by patients within their home is suggested as a method for assessing functional ability which encompasses both patient disability and environmental factors.