Incontinence pads and other products and devices can make life easier for you if you're waiting for a diagnosis or for a treatment to work.
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A wide range of products and devices are available for bladder and bowel incontinence.
- pads and pants
- bed and chair protection
- catheters and penile sheaths
- skin care and hygiene products
- specially adapted clothing and swimwear are also available
Pads and pull-ups for incontinence
The most popular incontinence products are pads that are worn inside underwear to mop up urine leaks.
There's a wide choice of absorbent pads and pull-ups for men and women with all types of incontinence.
They use the same technology as nappies and have a "hydrophobic" layer which draws urine away from the surface of the pad, so your skin stays dry.
"I wouldn't recommend that people with urinary incontinence or bowel incontinence use pads without advice from a doctor or continence adviser," says Karen Logan, consultant continence nurse at Gwent Healthcare NHS Trust.
"But as a temporary measure, they can really improve your quality of life and save you from being housebound or spending all your time in the toilet."
Avoid sanitary pads for incontinence
"Many women use sanitary pads instead of incontinence pads because they're cheaper, but they don't have the same technology. They stay damp and they can make skin sore," says Logan.
"I recommend paying the extra for incontinence pads as they're much more effective and comfortable."
For people with severe leakage, continence clinics and district nurses can supply pads on the NHS, though they tend to be big and bulky.
"Women with mild to moderate incontinence want the thin, discrete pads you attach to your underwear. You pay for these yourself.
"They're on sale at most supermarkets, chemists and online. It doesn't really matter what brand you buy as they're all good quality," says Logan.
Stop stress incontinence leaks with tampons
Some women with stress incontinence use super-sized tampons to prevent sudden leaks. Wearing a tampon in the vagina puts pressure on the bladder neck to stop leakage on exertion.
According to the National Institute for health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines on urinary incontinence in women, tampons aren't recommended for the routine management of urinary incontinence in women.
However, tampons can be used occasionally when necessary to prevent leakage, for example, during exercise.
Appliances and bedding for incontinence
Other useful incontinence products for more serious leakage include sheaths and drainage systems for men and urinals (urine collection devices) for men and women.
A variety of incontinence bedding is available, such as washable bed pads, which sit on top of the mattress and soak up any overnight leakage. The pads stay dry to the touch and they can be useful for trips away from home.
Can I get incontinence products on the NHS?
You may be able to get incontinence products on the NHS; it depends on your local clinical commissioning group. To qualify for NHS products you may need to be assessed by a healthcare professional.
Here's more information about how to get incontinence products on the NHS.
Where to buy incontinence products
The charity Bladder and Bowel UK (formerly PromoCon) gives independent advice on products that can help manage bladder and bowel problems.
For more information on products and mail order, call their confidential helpline on 0161 607 8219 or visit the Bladder and Bowel UK website.
The Continence Product Advisor gives independent and evidence-based advice on how to choose and use suitable incontinence products.
Read more tips for living with incontinence
Article provided by NHS Choices