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Incontinence & Overactive Bladder Health Center

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Bladder Control Protection for Urinary Incontinence

Choosing Your Product Style continued...

Liners are generally wider and longer than pads and offer better "front-to-back" protection. Pads are usually curved. Many contain elastic gussets on the sides to cradle your body and help keep leaks from rolling over the edge.

There's also a range of disposable undergarments with built-in protection -- not just in the crotch, but throughout the entire garment. Styles range from pull-ons with elasticized legs and waist resembling a traditional cloth panty to underwear that slips on like a "diaper" and uses Velcro or adhesive tabs for a customized fit. You can also find open-sided "thong style" panties held together by straps in the front and back that ride on top the hip bone.

Men also have the option of choosing "guards" -- pads designed around a man's anatomy and worn inside regular underwear. They're held in place by adhesive tabs pressed against the fabric. A variation known as a "drip collector" allows the penis to be placed inside a protective, absorbent "sack" that also absorbs urine flow.

Although disposable protection is the most costly, it can be the most sanitary -- and the easiest to use -- when you're not at home. Still, many people find that when they are at home, reusable, washable pads, liners, and absorbent garments are less expensive and feel more like "real" underwear.

Whatever you wear, it's important to follow a realistic changing schedule based on your urinary habits. You don't have to change absorbent products as soon as you experience urine loss. But you shouldn't wear them until they are so soaked that your skin feels wet.

Barrier Device Protection for Urinary Incontinence

In addition to products that absorb urine, there are devices that control the flow.

For men, the primary device is a penile compression clamp. Because there are few studies focused on their efficacy, safety, or comfort, and because of the potential for causing circulation problems, many doctors advise that they be used with extreme caution.

Women have the option of intravaginal support devices -- items such as tampons or vaginal sponges. They can provide temporary continence control by applying pressure on the support tissues of the bladder. This helps keep urine from escaping and is particularly good for stress incontinence, where physical exertion brings on urine loss.

For 24-hour protection, many women find a support pessary helpful. This is a plastic ring-type device that's inserted into the vagina. It also increases pressure on the urethra muscles and adds support to the pelvic region. Because these devices must be fitted to your pelvis size, they require a doctor's visit. They, can, however, be removed by you for cleaning, but should be replaced with a new one each year -- and that necessitates another trip to the doctor. Be aware that -- in some cases -- a pessary can worsen urinary incontinence.

More recently vaginal guards have become available. Vaginal guards -- disposable polyurethane devices -- come in three sizes. The guard is inserted into the vagina using an applicator and adds support to the pelvic structures and urethra muscles.

WebMD Medical Reference

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