Your ability to control urination or defecation requires: a normal anatomy, a normally functioning nervous system and, being able to determine and respond to the warning signs of an impending bathroom call. Incontinence is the involuntary discharge of urine or faeces due to a lack of control by the bladder or bowels and occurs because one or more of the afore-mentioned organs are not functioning as it should.

Its causes (urinary tract infections, neurological disorders, weakened pelvic and/or sphincter muscles, enlarged prostate, medication and other pre-existing conditions) and types (urge, stress, mixed, faecal etc.) are varied and so are its treatments. The main approaches to treating incontinence are: behavioral medicinal and surgical. However, regardless of the type and treatment required, there’ll likely be a period during which a less invasive method of management is necessary. The focus of this document is to assist you in making the right decision in selecting an absorbent product that will enable you to continue participating in normal everyday activities. These are products which absorbs urine: adult diapers, plastic-coated underwear and pads, or panty liners that can be used to manage any form of incontinence.

Pads and Liners

There are number of pads and guards designed for men and women who experience the loss of small to moderate amounts of urine. These pads are manufactured to absorb fluid more effectively with: a waterproof back, a pad containing a gel-forming polymer and an adhesive strip which fastens the product to your underclothing. They are meant to be worn inside your underwear, come in varying sizes, have different levels of absorbency and can be disposable. The padding and gel are made specifically to handle the chemical composition of urine thus ensuring maximum protection. Liners are similar in content to pads and are both longer and wider while offering better front-to-back protection; many are made with elastic gussets on the sides to fit the curvature of the body and help prevent leakage. Alternatively there are belted undergarments which replace ordinary underpants. This device includes: a belt with attachments of either buttons or velcro at the front and rear to which a pad is secured. The belt is made of elastic which facilitates easy removal (for toilet use) or change.

Disposable Underwear

Disposable briefs are designed for moderate to heavy incontinence and are similar in appearance to baby diapers. The difference being that, there are two or three tape closures on either side to provide additional security. They are manufactured with a plastic or thread-like waterproof and absorbent padding, which contains gel-forming polymer to absorb urine. They offer different levels of absorbency, shell structure. and odor control. In choosing one, you need to be aware of the benefits and drawbacks of each. Cheap briefs appear to save on cost. However, their level of absorbency is relatively low and their shell casing have a fragile plastic backing that tears easily, are often noisy and the fasteners are unreliable. This means that the frequency of change occurs more often than the more expensive brands which offer a noiseless cloth-like or more robust shell covering with tapes which can be refastened repeatedly. This type of product is also available as one-piece absorbent underpants (pull-ups). The preferred type of briefs depends on the choice of each individual, based on their precise situation. For an active person a disposable brief of good quality is more reliable, providing protection for a longer period of time and safely allowing for a greater range of activity than any of the other products.

Reusable Products

For many people disposable products may be the only option, however, also available are reusable (washable) products for persons who may be experiencing slight to moderate incontinence. These include incontinence undergarments which resemble normal underwear, with sewn in absorbent pads and are available in a variety of absorbency levels for both men and women. There are: contoured cloth diapers with a plastic covering, adult cloth diapers and vinyl, nylon and rubber waterproof outer pants that are worn over the undergarments providing an extra level of protection.

Bed and Chair Protection

For in-house usage there are also bed and chair protectors. Underpads are flat absorbent pads which are used to protect mattresses, bed linens and chairs. These may be made with absorbent cotton flannel on one side with a waterproof backing and are available in be disposable or reusable formats. While underpads offer partial covering to bedding, mattress pads are used to cover the complete mattress and come in varying sizes to fit all mattresses.

Absorbent products are a viable option if: your incontinence cannot be treated by other means, you are awaiting another treatment (including exercises or behavioural treatment) to take effect, while recovering from surgery, if your level of incontinence does not significantly disrupt your life or should you opt for absorbent products instead of medication or surgery.

Your choice of product should be determined by: your degree of incontinence, the product’s absorbency, durability, odor control proficiency, its comfort and ease of use, your lifestyle and the cost. With the right product and its proper use you can live a normal life and continue to participate in most activities. Although cost is a factor you need to consider the old adage “it’s better to be safe than sorry” and not let it be the major factor in choosing the right product.

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