You laugh and then leak. Or you sneeze and then dribble. Maybe you just lose it all.
The problem is urinary incontinence, a term used to describe a broad range of bladder control issues experienced by more than 12 million people. For some, medication or surgery helps. But for millions, over-the-counter "hygiene products" are an important coping tool.
There's no way around it: Loss of bladder control is no fun. But you can manage urinary incontinence. There are dozens of products designed to help you control mild, moderate, and severe symptoms. One of them could help you get out and be active again.
What follows is a guide to the most popular incontinence products and some tips for finding the ones that are right for you.
What You Should Know About Absorbent Products
Absorbent products include liners, pads, disposable underwear, and even reusable underwear. Most are designed not only to absorb urine and hold it for a significant period of time, but also to help control any associated odors. Of the three functions, however, experts agree absorbency is the most critical.
Absorbent products designed for incontinence control not only "catch" the leaks, drips, dribbles, and flow, but also immediately pull the moisture away from your skin, shuttling it deep into the pad, where it spreads evenly. Consequently, you can go longer without having to change.
Even though all incontinence protection products have a "saturation" point -- they can hold only so much liquid -- not every product absorbs at the same rate. Sometimes the difference can be dramatic. And since there is no industry standard for terms such as "plus" or "ultra plus," it's definitely worth it to try another brand if you're not satisfied with the protection you are getting from your current product.
Many disposable pads, liners, and undergarments are now available with a waterproof backing. The backing helps prevent overflow from reaching your clothes. The newest waterproof system uses a "breathable" plastic film that does more than simply offer extra protection. It also helps reduce skin irritation and urinary dermatitis associated with some waterproof linings, and reduces exposure to acids in the urine.