How to Shop For Incontinence Products: Buying Guide
What Are Incontinence Aids?
Incontinence aids, sometimes called continence aids or products, help adults manage and cope with urinary incontinence or the loss of bladder control. This is a very common, distressing problem that affects up to a third of all men and women in the U.S. Incontinence can be due to a number of different underlying physical issues, including overactive bladder (or OAB). The risk for incontinence increases with a number of conditions or correlating factors, including:
Overweight and obesity
Overall poor health
Prostate problems (for men)
Menopause (for women)
In addition, diabetes, stroke, hypertension and smoking may be associated with an increased risk for incontinence.
Why do you need to use incontinence products?
Shopping for incontinence protection can be confusing and stressful. When incontinence strikes, the last thing you want to worry about is an embarrassing leak that can ruin your clothing and force you to abandon plans. Absorbent incontinence products and aids help you avoid these awkward and distressing moments. Pads, shields and protective underwear designed to help discreetly absorb urinary leaks help protect your clothing, mask any unwanted leaks and keep you active and involved in life activities are available for both overnight and daily use.
If you're experiencing bowel incontinence (sometimes referred to as "fecal incontinence"), make sure that the products you're purchasing are effective for bowel leakage as well as urinary incontinence. Many products labeled as incontinence aids are really only meant to address urinary leakage, so you may need to look for a product specifically designed to protect against bowel incontinence.
Who needs incontinence products?
A number of conditions and factors can make absorbent incontinence products right for you. Whether you need a little bit of protection on an occasional basis or more significant help on a regular basis, there's an incontinence aid that's right for you. The causes of incontinence can vary from person to person, but it's important to recognize what type of incontinence you're dealing with, so you can get the right kind of product with the right level of absorbency to help manage your symptoms.
Which incontinence products are disposable?
Overnight and daytime pads, underpads, and many brands of underwear are usually disposable. This gives you the convenience of adding protection when and where you need it without having to worry about keeping items washed and cleaned.
How much do incontinence aids cost?
Most over-the-counter incontinence products, such as disposable pads, shields and underwear, cost between $10 and $30 or so. Some incontinence aids, such as catheterization supplies, are more accurately considered medical supplies and may be available at vastly different prices.
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What Different Types of Incontinence Products Are There?
You can purchase many different types of incontinence products. For single-use or disposable products, the following kinds of incontinence aids are most popular:
Underpads (absorbent pads for use on beds, chairs, etc.)
Although the precise amount of incontinence protection you'll get depends on the brand and how the product is made, as a general rule, underpads, liners and overnight pads are designed for light to moderate incontinence, while belted shields, protective underwear and fitted briefs can handle moderate to heavy urine leaks.
What Sizes of Incontinence Products Can I Choose?
Whether designed for men or for women, most disposable incontinence products (except for underpads) come in a variety of sizes to better fit different body types. Underwear and fitted briefs are usually built on the XS (extra small) to XXL (extra-extra large) scale so that people of all sizes can benefit from discreet protection.
Liners and pads come in different lengths for the same reason. Additionally, many incontinence aids are specifically designed for male or female bodies for additional customization of fit and protection.
Designed for Overnight
Incontinence aids designed for overnight use will generally provide thicker padding and may feel a bit bulkier as a result. However, these aids are designed specifically to help you get a full eight hours of sleep each night, so that added protection is important.
Designed for Light Use
By the same token, some incontinence aids are designed for light and occasional use. Liners and pads are generally significantly thinner than overnight products and sometimes are labeled "ultra-thin." As a result, they can feel more natural while wearing them and provide a far less noticeable profile. However, these products are not meant for moderate to heavy usage.
What to Consider when Buying Incontinence Products
Many types of incontinence aids are designed specifically for the male or female human body, with added padding in different places to provide more efficient protection against noticeable leaks.
It's important to get the right kind of product for your anticipated needs. Light to moderate bladder leaks can usually be handled easily by pads and liners, while heavier incontinence may require protective underwear or even fitted briefs for full protection.
Time of Day/Purpose
Consider when you're most likely to need additional protection before purchasing incontinence products. For example, if you'll mostly be using the products at night while you sleep, a product specifically designed for overnight use will give you the protection you need to get a full night's sleep in a lying position. However, if you're more concerned about protecting your clothing discreetly while you go about your daily routine, you'll want to examine pads, liners and possibly protective underwear with a thinner profile, to avoid conspicuous aids.
With most disposable protective incontinence products, prices stay within the $10-$30 range. However, depending on how often you'll need to restock your supplies, that price difference could add up quickly to a substantial cost. Make sure you take into consideration the number of units in each package and how many you anticipate needing within a month's time.
Product Package Size
Especially for small disposable products such as liners and pads, make sure you know exactly how many units are in each package before you buy.
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FAQ - Incontinence Products
Are incontinence products covered by Medicare?
Generally speaking, disposable incontinence products that protect against urine leaks are not covered by Medicare, nor are they covered by most supplemental insurance policies (also known as "Medigap policies").
How much urine will an overnight incontinence pad hold?
The exact amount of urine that any overnight incontinence pad or product will hold depends on the brand and the style of pad. Generally speaking, pads designed for light leakage or incontinence will hold up to 8 ounces of fluid if it's discharged slowly over several hours. On the other end of the spectrum, full-strength pads and fitted briefs (sometimes called "adult diapers") with moderate absorbency or maximum absorbency can usually hold three cups or more.
How often should you change incontinence pads?
Regardless of the stated absorbency level, you should immediately change any pad that becomes damp. Additionally, you should change incontinence pads frequently throughout the day, even if the pad is dry. This is important to keep your skin healthy and clean. Going through four to six pads a day is a good rule of thumb.
How do you dispose of incontinence pads?
The most effective and discreet way of throwing away used incontinence pads is to put them into a small plastic bag or sack, then put the bag into your garbage bag for collection. Incontinence products cannot and should not be flushed down a toilet, so make sure you dispose of used aids properly and safely.