Incontinence Buying Guide
Incontinence is rarely mentioned outside the urology clinic but it is a problem estimated to effect up to 3 million people in the UK. If you are suffering from incontinence then you shouldn't suffer in silence as there is a wealth of support networks and help available.There are a number of online resources if you want to understand more about the causes of incontinence and potential remedies. We have listed these resources at the end of this guide.
The purpose of this buying guide is to explain the many products available to help you cope with incontinence and not let it affect your everyday life.
Although often used for urinary incontinence, sanitary towels are not designed for incontinence and do not provide enough absorbency.
After soiling a pad, you should try an get to a lavatory to change the pad as soon as possible. Good hygiene is essential to prevent odour and avoid skin problems. Soiled pads or clothing should be put into an airtight container or sealed bag until they can be washed or disposed of.
Insert PadsThese are basic pads which don’t have a waterproof backing and should be used with pouch pants. These pouch pants will have a waterproof outer layer to the pouch. The pad is normally inserted into the pouch which will hold it in place. There is generally a 'stay dry' fabric between the pad and your skin - this lets the urine go into the pad but which stops it feeling wet against your skin. This type of pad is used for light or moderate leaks of urine.
Shaped PadsThese pads are contoured to fit the body. They normally have a waterproof backing and are held in place by special net underpants or pants with a special pouch in them. These pads generally have a 'stay dry' layer which goes next to the skin and a waterproof plastic backing to stop urine leaking out of the pad.
Most of the shaped pads have a removable adhesive strip, so that they can be secured in place in either regular underwear, or with stretch pants. It is not advisable to remove the strip with pouch pants as it makes insertion and removal of the pad more difficult.
All-in-one PadsThese are more suitable for bigger leaks and also for faecal leakage. They are normally designed like nappies, with adhesive tapes which fix at the sides to hold the pad in place. There is a waterproof backing material all around the pad which will protect clothing and furniture.
There are other all-in-one pads which are styled like underwear and can be pulled up and down as necessary. These are designed to replace the need to wear underwear. Most designs have easy to rip sides, which makes removal quicker and easier.
Pants with built in padsThese pants are designed for light incontinence and have a small absorbent pad sewn into the crotch. The waterproof outer layer prevents any show through onto your clothes; whilst they stay dry top layer keeps you dry.
The absorbancy levels will vary by garment but they typically absorb up to 200ml. This makes them ideal for light stress incontinence, to give you extra confidence during the day.
Once soiled, simply pop the pants (including the built in pad) into the washing machine (following the washing guidelines) and you can use the pants again. The pads will gradually lose their absorbency over time but should last for at least 200 washes. Ideally you will should have at least 3 pairs so you have one to wear today, one for tomorrow and one pair in the wash.
Pouch PantsPouch pants are designed for light to moderate urinary incontinence. The great benefit of pouch pant over pants with built-in pads is that you can change the pad during the day without having to change the pants.
They have a built in pouch so that disposable pads can be held in the correct position. The pouch will normally have a waterproof outer layer to prevent any soiling of clothes. In most underwear the pouch is on the inside, however on some pants the pouch is accessed externally.
The pouches are designed for light to medium incontinence pads and cannot be used with heavy duty pads. You should look at stretch pants (see below) for use with heavy duty pads.
Pouch pants are washable like normal underwear. Again, it is advisable to have 3 or 4 pairs so that you have a pair available for each day.
Stretch PantsThese are a mesh support pant similar to the top part of a pair of tights. They are designed to be very close fitting so as to hold the pad in place. Reusable and easy to wash, these pants are ideally suited to be worn with larger incontinence pads.
Waterproof PantsAs extra security, you can use waterproof pants to go over your regular underwear when using incontinence pads. They have elasticated leg openings and waist to make sure that no leaks occur.
Bedding and Furniture Protection
Waterproof BeddingBeds can be the most vulnerable to leaks and is the most difficult to rid of odours. A waterproof fitted sheet can be used underneath your normal sheet to provide complete protection and prevent any liquid penetrating the mattress. They can usually be washed in the washing machine and can be wiped down with anti-bacterial wipes between washes.
Please note that waterproof mattress protectors are not absorbent. They typically should be used with absorbent pads which will hold the liquid. The mattress protector is really there to ensure that none of the liquid reaches the actual mattress.
You can also buy waterproof pillow and duvet protectors which again are used underneath your normal bedding and hence are not discernable.
Reusable Chair and Bed PadsA reuseable bed or chair pad generally has an absorbent layer, a top ‘stay dry’ sheet to keep the user comfortable and a waterproof backing. They are fully washable and once soiled, can be washed in a washing machine.
The chair pads come in a variety of sizes and so can be used on wheelchairs, arm chairs or dining room chairs. As they are material based, they can easily be left on a chair and not look out of place. They are available in various colours and patterns and can easily blend into any environment.
Some of the bed pads come with wings, so that you can tuck it under the mattress to keep it in place. The bed pads should be used with a waterproof mattress protector for added security.
It is advisable to have more than one pad so that one can be on the bed/chair, whilst the other one is in the wash.
Disposable Furniture ProtectionThese are made of the same materials as disposable pads. The waterproof backing is topped with an absorbent pulp layer with a stay dry outer layer. These pads should be disposed of once soiled.
Again, a disposable bed pad should be used with a waterproof mattress protector to ensure the mattress is protected. This is especially important for disposable bed pads which tend to be smaller than reuseable bed pads and hence when you move around in your sleep it is easier to move off the pad.
WipesVarious anti-bacterial wipes can be used to clean surfaces such as mattress protectors or furniture. This will kill any bacteria and other germs. Many wipes will also protect against a range of viral infections such as E-Coli and MRSA.
Using skin care wipes tends to be easier and more convenient as it makes it easier to cleanse without having to have a full bath or shower.
CleanersThese are specialist cleansers to clean your skin which minimise the need for scrubbing or irritating what may already be a sore area. Most dissolve the urine and faeces left in contact with the skin, so no abrasive rubbing is required. They will have added moisturisers to soothe the skin and anti-bacterial qualities.
You can buy cleansing wipes for patient use or you can buy the cleanser and then use either cotton wool, a flannel or strong disposable dry wipes.