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Bladder control protection for urinary incontinence

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 problems experienced by by around 13% of women and 5% of men in the UK. For some, exercise, medication or surgery helps. But for millions of people, over-the-counter hygiene products are an important coping tool.

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 odours. 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, drawing 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 and can hold only so much liquid, not every product absorbs at the same rate. Sometimes the difference can be dramatic. Products usually indicate their level of absorbency by stating how many ml of liquid they can hold. There is a lot of choice, so it is definitely worth your while to try another brand if you are not satisfied with the protection you’re 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, as well as reducing the exposure to acids in the urine.

Urinary incontinence and odour control

Most incontinence pads, liners and disposable underwear feature some type of odour control. Often the materials are treated with a natural odour-absorbing compound such as baking soda. Sometimes, however, manufacturers add fragrance to the pad, liner or garment, and while some people find this pleasant, others find it causes skin irritation. Additionally, if you have sensitive skin, even natural odour control compounds can cause you problems.

If this is a problem for you, look for products that are fragrance-free and contain no chemicals for odour control.

If you accidentally leak urine onto your clothes or furniture there are several products you can use -- sprays and special detergents -- that remove urine stains and odours. Some are sold in pharmacies or online.

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