Lots of men hate the idea of using incontinence products -- so-called adult diapers, urine collection bags, and catheters. But if you're having a problem with male incontinence, these products can really help. They can prevent embarrassing accidents, simplify your life, and increase your confidence. Here's a rundown of some of your options.
Incontinence pads and other absorbent products. While women grow up using pads (albeit of a different sort), men can find the idea pretty weird and distressing. But these incontinence products can be enormously helpful. They can prevent leaking onto your clothes, control odor, and prevent skin irritation. What's more, knowing you're protected can provide you with a sense of security.
Of course, there are so many types available that you may not know where to start. The best choice depends on your symptoms. If you're just having occasional leaking or dribble, a drip collector -- an absorbent padded sheath that goes around the penis -- might do the trick. For mild cases, an incontinence pad inserted into the underwear and held in place with an adhesive strip might work. If you're having more severe incontinence, a larger guard or pair of absorbent underwear may be what you need. Some briefs are washable; others are disposable. If you're confused about what type will work best for you, just ask your doctor for advice. It may take some experimentation before you find a type of incontinence product that works and feels comfortable for you.
Men rarely see Thomas J. Weida, MD, for medical tests without prodding from a wife or girlfriend. When they do show up, Weida jokes that he “can see the drag marks on the carpet.”
It’s amusing, of course. But it can quickly turn serious when a man ignores important symptoms. Weida says he knows of men who got away with ignoring chest pain for a couple of weeks. Eventually, though, they died of heart attacks.
External catheters. Unlike the catheters used at the hospital, external catheters for male incontinence are silicone or latex devices that go over the penis instead of into the urethra. They're usually rolled on like condoms. The urine is sent through a tube into a drainage bag. Some men only use these devices at night. To prevent leaks, it's very important to get the right fit and to follow the instructions from the manufacturer.
Drainage bags. These are just the plastic bags that you would attach to a catheter. Larger ones are called "bedside bags" and are hung near the bed. Smaller ones can be worn on the body, attached to the abdomen or leg with straps.
Underpads. These incontinence products are basic waterproof pads or covers that can be placed on furniture or mattresses to protect against leaks. They add an extra level of protection.
Urinals and other toilet substitutes. When getting to the bathroom isn't possible, plastic urinals can be a big help for male incontinence. These are plastic containers that a man can urinate into. They may be particularly helpful if you have urge incontinency, which makes it tough to get to the bathroom fast enough. You can keep one by the bed and another in the car in case you get stuck somewhere without a bathroom.
Penile clamps. They may sound unpleasant, but for certain men, penile clamps -- also called "external compression devices" -- can make a big difference. A small amount of pressure exerted on the penis can temporarily close off the urethra, stopping any potential leakage. The part that fits around the penis is soft foam and shouldn't be uncomfortable. These devices aren't right for everyone, so talk to your doctor. Using them too often could cause circulation problems, skin irritation, and strictures. Generally, they're only meant to be used for a couple of hours at a time.