Whether it’s overactive bladder or urinary retention, no one likes to talk about incontinence. But for the millions of Americans affected by bladder control issues, being bold enough to speak with a doctor and address the problem correctly can make life much more enjoyable. Unfortunately, most people opt to avoid and ignore.

The cost of avoidance

“From the onset of symptoms to the time most people are treated for incontinence, seven years go by,” says Steven Gregg, Ph.D., the executive director of the National Association for Continence. “Less than a third seek treatment at all.”

Gregg says this delay in treatment can be heartbreaking, because a host of approaches exist to improve the situation, ranging from things they can do on their own — like kegel exercises and bladder retraining all the way to surgery. “There is no reason for a person to forego treatment for urinary incontinence,” he says. “Eighty percent can be cured or improved.”

Finding the right product

Once diagnosed, finding the product that works best for lifestyle and health needs can make a big difference in the quality of life for both patients and caregivers. For example, Gregg says people often start with a low absorbency product, but if they are experiencing heavy incontinence, those products will leak, produce odors, and ruin sheets and clothing. That is hard on patients, because they lose dignity, and hard on caregivers because of the constant changing and washing.

'“There is no reason for a person to forego treatment for urinary incontinence. Eighty percent can be cured or improved.”'

To help determine what product is best, Gregg recommends speaking with an expert about “form, fit and function” before wasting time and money on something that doesn’t meet their needs. And for obese or bariatric patients or elderly people with nocturia, mobility issues, Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, finding the right product restores dignity and can contribute to improved mental health.

Holistic health benefits

Gregg explains, “A heavily incontinent individual in a low absorbency product will need to be wakened throughout the night for changes. Study after study has found that sleep is critical for mental health and healing, and conversely, regularly interrupted sleep can lead to slower healing of wounds, agitated patients and exacerbated dementia.”

Beyond mental health, the right product can also prevent serious injury. Gregg notes that when a product leaks and skin remains wet, it can cause urinary tract infections, skin dermatitis and lesions that lead to hospitalization. Those with mobility issues are at a greater risk of falling in their rush to avoid an accident. In such cases, Gregg contends, the right product could literally save lives.