When you’re caring for someone with incontinence, you know how sensitive their skin is and how easily irritation, rashes, or burns can develop.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take and innovative new products available to keep older adults dry, comfortable, and protected.
We explain why this irritation happens and share 4 ways to prevent incontinence-related skin problems.
Incontinence associated dermatitis (IAD) causes skin irritation
Incontinence associated dermatitis (IAD) happens when the skin is exposed to urine or stool for extended periods of time.
When incontinence is managed using absorbent products like briefs or pads, this is common.
IAD can cause significant irritation and discomfort and can be emotionally upsetting for both people with incontinence and for caregivers.
The main factors that contribute to the development of IAD are:
- Microbes that normally live on the skin in the genital area can react with substances in urine and produce ammonia, which can burn the skin or even cause open sores.
- Urine can also affect the skin’s pH level, making it more susceptible to yeast infections or other types of fungi. With fecal incontinence, bacteria-laden stool can irritate skin even more than urine.
- Moisture is another issue. Skin exposed to prolonged moisture is more vulnerable to small cuts and abrasions from incontinence brief fasteners, plastic and elastic gathers around the legs, cleaning with rougher tissues or cloths, or simply moving against sheets or clothing.
4 ways to prevent incontinence-related skin irritation and IAD
1. Change pads and briefs frequently
To keep skin healthy, change absorbent incontinence pads and briefs regularly, even if they appear dry.
This is because urine can sometimes leak in drips or small streams, making the brief damp enough to cause skin irritation, even if it doesn’t seem wet. Typically, a person needs 4 to 6 changes per day.
But keeping up with frequent changes makes nighttime incontinence management trickier when neither you nor your older adult are getting enough sleep.
For men, there’s an innovative addition to an incontinence brief that can help solve this problem – an absorbent, targeted wrap that hospitals have been using for years.
The QuickChange Wrap is a smaller absorbent pad that wraps securely and comfortably around the penis to wick away urine before it pools onto skin or linens.
In a Mayo Clinic study of QuickChange wraps used in hospitals, they were found to significantly reduce skin irritation from incontinence, meaningfully improving patients’ skin health. This led to many hospitals adding QuickChange to their standard incontinence management practices.
The good news is that it’s now available for retail purchase for home use. And the $5 sample pack lets you try the wraps out to see if they’ll work for your older adult.
The wrap, when used in addition to an incontinence brief, can be changed easily without lifting or turning the person.
Often, the wrap absorbs the urine so the outer brief says dry, meaning there’s no need to change the whole brief and minimizing disturbance to your sleeping older adult.
This makes nighttime changes faster, easier, and cleaner so you can quickly get back to sleep.
For men with limited mobility, the wrap is also helpful for daytime incontinence management. It makes frequent changes quick and easy because there’s often no need to go into the bathroom.
And to help these quick changes go smoothly from the beginning, the QuickChange Wrap has easy-to-follow video tutorials online that show how best to use them.
They also include specific advice on using the wraps for men with special circumstances (i.e. less common physical features).
2. Keep skin clean and dry
Make sure to keep skin in the entire area clean, but try to avoid using soap since it can strip delicate skin of its natural protection.
Use a gentle cleanser that balances the skin’s pH level and use soft cloths or tissues to minimize irritation.
Then gently, but thoroughly dry the skin.
3. Keep skin moisturized
A hydrogel, which can be found in the wound care section of your pharmacy, is a great way to keep delicate skin moisturized.
That strengthens the skin’s natural barrier and keeps it healthier.
4. Create a moisture barrier
As a last step, applying a cream with zinc oxide seals and protects skin from the effects of exposure to urine and stool.
What to do if skin irritation does develop
Even with the most attentive care, people can still develop incontinence-related skin irritation.
A 2018 study found that nearly half of patients with urinary or fecal incontinence are affected by IAD at one time or another.
If you see signs of IAD, consult your older adult’s doctor to find out what’s best for your older adult’s specific situation.
In many cases, the doctor will recommend a specific over-the-counter treatment. In some cases of IAD, the doctor may need to prescribe a topical prescription and/or oral antibiotic.
UI Medical is a leading innovator in the adult incontinence market. Our focus is to develop products that simultaneously empower patients and empower caregivers. We are leading to better patient outcomes and to better caregiver interactions. Our flagship product is the QuickChange Incontinence Wrap, an innovative alternative to traditional adult incontinence briefs and to foley and condom catheters.