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.
A wide range of products and devices are available for urinary incontinence.
- pads and pants
- bed and chair protection
- catheters and penile sheaths
- skincare and hygiene products
- specially adapted clothing and swimwear
Pads and pull-up pants
The most popular incontinence products are absorbent pads that are worn inside underwear to soak up urine.
Pads and pull-up pants use the same technology as babies' nappies and have a "hydrophobic" layer which draws urine away from the surface of the product, so your skin stays dry.
If you have mild to moderate incontinence you can buy thin, discreet pads or pull-up pants for men and women from many supermarkets and pharmacies.
For people with severe leaks, continence clinics and district nurses can supply incontinence pads on the NHS, but these tend to be big and bulky.
"I would not recommend that people with urinary 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 do not have the same technology. They stay damp and they can make your skin sore," says Logan.
"I recommend paying the extra for incontinence pads as they're much more effective and comfortable."
Using tampons for stress incontinence
Placing a tampon in your vagina puts pressure on the neck of your bladder to stop leaks on exertion. However, do not regularly use super-size tampons to prevent sudden leaks if you have stress incontinence.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) does not recommend using tampons for the routine management of urinary incontinence in women.
However, tampons can be used occasionally, when necessary, to prevent leaks. For example, during exercise.
Appliances and bedding
Other useful incontinence products for more severe leaks include urinals (devices that collect urine), or sheaths and drainage systems (if you have a penis).
A variety of incontinence bedding is also available, such as washable bed pads that sit on top of the mattress and soak up any overnight leaks. 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 depending on your local integrated care board (ICB). To qualify for NHS products you may need to be assessed by a healthcare professional.
Where to buy incontinence products
The charity Bladder & Bowel UK gives independent advice on products that can help manage bladder and bowel problems.
For more information on products and how to order them, call its helpline on 0161 214 4591 or visit the Bladder & Bowel UK website.
The Continence Product Advisor gives independent and evidence-based advice on how to choose and use suitable incontinence products.
Page last reviewed: 07 November 2019
Next review due: 07 November 2022