There is a bewildering choice of products for people who suffer with incontinence. A product that’s right for one person may not be right for another so the golden rule for looking for the right product for you or your loved one is:
Buy one pack of one brand/size/absorbency at a time.
Try and order/buy again in larger numbers if the product is right.
Things you may want to think about when buying incontinence aids are:
- Discrete appearance for pads/panties
- Discrete ordering and delivery packaging
- Highly absorbent – the right level of absorbency for the right level of urine leakage
- Odour control – scented pads are available but don’t use them if they cause a rash or other skin irritation
- Ease of use
- Ease of disposal/washing and reuse
- Trusted brand.
In this article we’ll look at the types of products available to you so that you can make a choice about what might fit best to your needs. We’ll look at pad and absorbent products as well as continence training aids and other products (at the bottom of the page) that you might want to discuss with your doctor or specialist nurse.
We don’t recommend one brand over another as this is down to individual choice and comfort.
Incontinence pads and panties.
It’s best to look for a specialist incontinence product rather than use a sanitary product. Women’s sanitary products are designed to absorb blood which is thicker and stickier than urine. They look very similar but their materials and construction are different.
- A pad or panty liner that is worn inside the underwear is held in place by an adhesive strip. It has a waterproof backing to protect your clothes.
- They are available for men and women.
- Different thicknesses of pad are for different levels of leakage.
- They are shaped to fit as comfortably as possible between the legs.
- If you’re not used to wearing pads they can take a little getting used to. Expect to feel a little self conscious when you first try them but check your silhouette in the mirror – you will be surprised at how discrete they are.
- Re-usable, washable pads/liners that are worn inside waterproof underwear are available.
- Pads are suitable for all types of continence problem, especially urge and/or stress incontinence.
Disposable pads for women for daily use and light to medium leakage are available at stores. More specialist products and products for men may only be available online or at a specialty store. Try researching ‘disability living stores’ for your local area if you want to buy in a store.
Adult incontinence underwear.
Also called adult diapers (US), these are good for people who leak a large amount of urine.
- They come in disposable and re-usable formats and in different sizes to fit small, medium, large and extra large.
- They may also have elastic leg edges to prevent leakage.
- Re-usable pants/diapers are economical and a good environmental choice but not for everyone. They look like normal underwear but have a waterproof crotch area and hold a reusable absorbent pad in place.
- Some highly absorbent and reusable undergarments now use special fabrics that wick the urine away from the body to keep it drier and more comfortable. They are as absorbent as disposable underwear/diapers.
- An outer layer of nylon or vinyl outer pants worn over the undergarments can give an extra layer of protection and are bought separately.
They are available online, at pharmacies or disability living stores.
Incontinence products for men.
- If you have a problem with a constant leak of small amounts of urine, perhaps because of overflow incontinence, a ‘drip collector’ may suit your needs.
This is pad of absorbent material made into a pocket and covered in a waterproof fabric. The penis fits into the pocket and you keep it in place when you wear close fitting underwear. There are examples from Jackson Medical Products and Conveen here.
- Another option is a condom-like catheter device. Like a condom it rolls over the penis but has a tube on the end which can be attached to a catheter bag. The catheter bag can be either discretely attached to the leg and worn under trousers/long pants, or to a larger overnight collection bag.
They’re quite easy to use and keep the urine away from the skin. There’s an example in the picture here.
- A Cunningham Clamp fits over the penis and gently closes the urethra (see the
body diagram) to prevent urine leakage, but doesn’t cut the blood flow. They can be used for mild to moderate leakage.
The reusable clamp is soft and can be unclamped at the appropriate time to allow you to pee normally. It takes a little getting used to and can be a bit uncomfortable at first.
If it causes swelling or irritation in the penis then stop using it immediately and talk to your doctor.
Protecting beds and chairs.
Incontinence pads for beds and chairs are flat sheet-pads made of highly absorbent material and have a waterproof back. They also come in disposable or re-useable formats. They’re sometimes called ‘inco-pads,’ ‘inco-sheets’ or ‘Chux’.
A waterproof mattress protector is also worth having if you or your loved one suffers night time incontinence. This will stop urine seeping into the mattress and therefore prevent the odour that can accompany it over time.
They are usually available from medical supply companies, specialist retailers online or in disability living stores.
Other continence aids.
- You may have heard of Kegel exercises which exercise the pelvic floor. By improving the strength of this hammock of muscle, which runs from the pubic bone to the spine, you may be able to improve stress incontinence.
Kegel devices will enhance the effectiveness of the exercise itself. There are rods, cones and weights of various sizes intended for women and other products that are designed for men and women.
The important thing is to find a product that targets just the pelvic floor. This is the muscle that you squeeze when you don’t want to pass urine or a stool/gas. It may help to talk to your doctor or continence adviser to find out which is best for you.
- Pessaries that sit high in the vagina are designed to support the neck of the bladder. They come in different sizes and it may require the help of a specialist to find the right size for you.
- Urethral insets are put into the urethra (see the body diagram) to block the leakage of urine. You remove them when you’re ready to pee and replace it with a new one. Again, professional guidance is best for these products.
If you’re worried about your symptoms or medical problem but don’t want to seek professional help because you feel embarrassed, silly or that it’s your fault, read this page now: How to talk to a doctor about an embarrassing problem.