Urinary incontinence products
Adult diapers; Disposable urinary collection devices
There are many products to help you manage urinary incontinence. You can decide which product to choose based on:
- How much urine you lose
- How easy it is to use
- How well it controls odor
- How often you lose urine throughout the day and night
INSERTS AND PADS
You may have tried using sanitary pads to manage urine leaks. However, these products aren't made to absorb urine. So they don't work as well for that purpose.
Pads made for urine leaks can soak up a lot more fluid than sanitary pads. They also have a waterproof backing. These pads are meant to be worn inside your underwear. Some companies make reusable, washable cloth liners or pads that are held in place by waterproof pants.
ADULT DIAPERS AND UNDERWEAR
If you leak a lot of urine, you may need to use adult diapers.
- You can buy either disposable or reusable adult diapers.
- Disposable diapers should fit snugly.
- They usually come in small, medium, large, and extra-large sizes.
- Some diapers have elastic leg seams for a better fit and to prevent leaks.
Reusable underpants may help save money.
- Some types of underwear have a waterproof crotch. They hold a reusable absorbent liner in place.
- Some look like normal underwear, but absorb as well as disposable diapers. Plus you don't need additional pads. They have a special design that quickly pulls fluid away from the skin. They come in different sizes to handle different amounts of leakage.
- Other products include washable, adult cloth diapers or cloth diapers with a plastic cover.
- Some people wear waterproof pants over their underwear for extra protection.
PRODUCTS FOR MEN
- Drip collector -- This is a small pocket of absorbent padding with a waterproof backside. The drip collector is worn over the penis. It is held in place by close-fitting underwear. This works well for men who constantly leak just a little.
- Condom catheter -- You place this product over your penis like you would put on a condom. It has a tube on the end that connects with a collection bag tied to your leg. This device can handle small or large amounts of urine. It has little odor, doesn't irritate your skin, and is easy to use.
- Cunningham clamp -- This device is placed over the penis. This clamp gently keeps the urethra (the tube that carries urine out of the body) closed. You release the clamp when you want to empty your bladder. It can be uncomfortable at first, but most men adjust to it. It is reusable, so it can be less expensive than other options.
PRODUCTS FOR WOMEN
- Pessaries -- These are reusable devices you insert in your vagina to support your bladder and put pressure on your urethra so you don't leak. Pessaries come in different shapes and sizes, such as a ring, cube, or dish. It may take a few tries for your provider to help you find the right fit.
- Urethral insert -- This is a soft plastic balloon that is inserted into your urethra. It works by blocking urine from coming out. You must remove the insert to urinate. Some women use inserts for only part of the day, like when exercising. Others use them throughout the day. To prevent infection, you must use a new sterile insert each time.
- Disposable vaginal insert -- This device is inserted into the vagina like a tampon. It puts pressure on the urethra to prevent leakage. The product is available at drug stores without a prescription.
BED AND CHAIR PROTECTION
- Underpads are flat absorbent pads you can use to protect bed linens and chairs. These underpads, sometimes called Chux, are made of absorbent material with a waterproof backing. They may be disposable or reusable.
- Some new products can pull moisture away from the surface of the pad. This protects your skin from breakdown. Medical supply companies and some larger department stores carry underpads.
- You can also create your own underpads from vinyl tablecloths with flannel backing. Shower curtain liners covered with a flannel sheet also work well. Or, place a rubber pad between layers of bed linens.
KEEP YOUR SKIN DRY
When you use these products, it's important to protect your skin. Skin can break down when in contact with urine for a long time.
- Remove soaked pads right away.
- Remove all wet clothing and linen.
- Thoroughly clean and dry your skin.
- Consider using a skin barrier cream or lotion.
WHERE TO BUY URINARY INCONTINENCE PRODUCTS
You can find most products at your local drugstore, supermarket, or medical supply store. Ask your health care provider for a list of incontinence care products.
The National Association for Continence may be able to help you find products. Call toll-free at 1-800-BLADDER or visit the website:
When you enter a store or restaurant, are you often looking to find the establishments bathroom? If you're having trouble holding in your urine, or if you often leak urine, you probably have what's called urinary incontinence. Normally, the bladder begins to fill with urine from the kidneys. The bladder stretches to allow more and more urine. You should feel the first urge to urinate when there is about 200 mL, just under 1 cup of urine stored in your bladder. A healthy nervous system will respond to this stretching sensation by letting you know that you have to urinate. But, at the same time, the bladder should keep filling. But the system doesn't work correctly in people with urinary incontinence. Some people with urinary incontinence leak urine during activities like coughing, sneezing, laughing, or exercise. This is called stress incontinence. When you have a sudden, strong need to urinate, but can't make it to the bathroom before you do urinate, it's called urge incontinence. Other people have what's called overflow incontinence, when the bladder cannot empty and they dribble. Urinary incontinence can have many causes, and it's most common in older adults. Women are more likely than men to have it. For some people the bladder muscle is overactive. For others, the muscles holding the urine in are weak. And for others, the problem is sensing when the bladder is full. They might have brain or nerve problems, dementia or other health problems that make it hard to feel and respond to the urge to urinate, or problems with the urinary system itself. To treat urinary incontinence, your doctor can help you form a treatment plan. Most likely, exercises to strengthen the muscles of your pelvic floor will be part of that plan. Bladder training exercises can also be effective. And depending on the cause of incontinence, oral medications, or topical estrogen may be helpful. If you have overflow incontinence and cannot empty your bladder completely, you may need to use a catheter. Your doctor can recommend the best catheter for you. For urine leaks, you might wear absorbent pads or undergarments. Whatever else you try, lifestyle changes may help. Aim for an ideal weight. Losing excess weight and increasing exercise both often improve incontinence, especially in women. Also, some specific beverages and foods might increase leaking in some people. For instance, you might try eliminating alcohol, caffeine, carbonated beverages, even decaf coffee. Drink plenty of water, but do NOT drink anything 2 to 4 hours before going to bed. Be sure to empty your bladder before going to bed to help prevent urine leakage at night. Throughout the day, urinate at set times, even if you do not feel the urge. Schedule yourself every 3 to 4 hours. Urinary incontinence is very common, but many people never talk to their doctor about it. Don't let that be you. See your doctor and bring it up at your next doctor's visit.
Boone TB, Stewart JN, Martinez LM. Additional therapies for storage and emptying failure. In: Partin AW, Dmochowski RR, Kavoussi LR, Peters CA, eds. Campbell-Walsh-Wein Urology. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 127.
Stiles M, Walsh K. Care of the elderly patient. In: Rakel RE, Rakel DP, eds. Textbook of Family Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 4.
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Last reviewed on: 7/26/2021
Reviewed by: Kelly L. Stratton, MD, FACS, Associate Professor, Department of Urology, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, OK. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.