Managing adult incontinence can be frustrating enough without adding skin problems into the mix. Skin irritation on and around the genitals, hips, and pelvic area is common among incontinent adults. Skin problems from incontinence can be uncomfortable at best and lead to serious infections at worst. Fortunately, since the problem is common, several incontinence skin care practices can help you prevent and treat problems that may arise. Let’s explore different forms of skin care for incontinence you can apply.
Types of Incontinence Skin Problems
The two main skin conditions people with incontinence experience are incontinence-associated dermatitis (IAD) and skin infections.
Incontinence-associated dermatitis is an inflammation that occurs when skin is exposed to urine or stool. Studies on incontinence skin care have found that around 30% of people with fecal incontinence develop IAD. The condition is particularly common among people with chronic incontinence, especially elderly individuals receiving nursing home care. Caregivers sometimes mistake pressure sores or ulcers for IAD.
IAD is an uncomfortable condition that makes sitting and sleeping difficult. Symptoms of IAD include excess heat around affected areas, burning, itchiness, redness, blisters, lesions, and pain. These symptoms may occur around your genitals, rectal area, and thighs.
Incontinence skin infections occur when bacteria in urine or stool pass through the outer layer of your skin to irritate the soft tissue underneath. Continuous exposure to bacteria through stagnant urine or stool affects your skin's pH balance, making your skin more porous and vulnerable to harmful bacteria.
You may also develop a skin infection if your incontinence product causes friction or chafing. Friction or chafing caused by tight incontinence products break your skin barrier, making it easy for bacteria to enter. Infections may also form between folds if your skin rubs together and breaks, providing passage for bacteria.
Yeast infection, or candidiasis, is another problem people with incontinence face. The fungi responsible for this infection thrive in warm, humid areas. Incontinence products without breathable properties make sweat pool between your buttocks and genitals, creating an ideal environment for candida to multiply quickly. A yeast infection causes a burning red rash, broken skin, and pimples filled with pus and liquid.
Untreated severe skin rash caused by incontinence is another cause of skin infections. You may develop an infection if pimples or blisters resulting from a rash burst and ooze blood and pus onto other areas of your skin.
Symptoms of skin infections include warm and hard skin, pain, blisters, maceration, skin breakdown, and discolored skin.
How to Care for Incontinence-Related Skin Irritation
Treating incontinence-related skin infections immediately stops them from spreading to other areas or developing into more serious health conditions. Follow these steps to care for skin infections and IAD:
- Regularly clean the affected region gently with soft cloths and linens to remove urine and stool particles that can cause further bacterial infection.
- Use a pH-balancing cleanser to strengthen the skin and restore the broken barrier.
- Apply petroleum jelly and hydrogel creams with zinc oxide to the affected area to soothe irritation and reduce redness and inflammation.
- Keep the infected area dry to reduce friction and fungal growth.
- Use absorbent incontinence products to prevent urine and stool from coming into continued contact with your sensitive skin.
How to Prevent Incontinence-Related Skin Irritation
Creating and maintaining a proper skin care routine for incontinence can prevent irritation and infections. Here are some incontinence skin care best practices you can use:
- Cleanse Regularly: Maintaining high hygiene standards is the best way to prevent a skin infection. Removing all traces of urine and stool from your skin eliminates unhealthy bacteria that can lead to skin infections. Wipe your groin and buttocks with a wet towel when you soil yourself or change incontinence pads or underwear. Use a soft cloth and a gentle, scentless cleanser to gently scrub these areas when taking your daily bath.
- Frequently Change Incontinence Products: Incontinence products lose effectiveness when full since the absorbent core has nowhere else to distribute accumulated waste. If you don’t change your incontinence pads or underwear on time, any waste your body releases sits on the top layer of the product, remaining in contact with your skin. This continued contact disrupts your skin’s pH, making you more vulnerable to irritation, rashes, and infections. Always have a replacement incontinence product at hand so you can dash into a toilet and change your pad or underwear whenever you soil yourself.
- Use the Right Skin Care Products: The outer layer of your skin is a strong barrier against bacteria and fungi. Using the right skin care products strengthens this layer, making you less vulnerable to infections. Use skin creams and ointments with pH-balancing properties to reduce the chances of skin breakage. Since allergies can also cause incontinence-related skin irritation, change any skin care products that make your skin flare up. Moreover, only apply skin care products to clean, dry skin to avoid clogging your skin pores.
- Eat a Good Diet: Foods that improve skin health can protect you from skin irritation. Incorporate fatty fish, avocadoes, sweet potatoes, and sunflower seeds into your daily diet to gain skin-friendly nutrients.
Incontinence Skin Care Products
These products are a must-have for anyone conducting skin care for incontinence:
- Wet Wipe/Wash Cloth: Wet wipes and wash clothes provide more intensive and effective cleaning than bare hands. You can use a washcloth at the beginning and end of your day to remove all traces of urine and stool from your skin. Always have wet wipes close by during the day to thoroughly clean your skin before wearing a fresh incontinence product.
- Perineal Cleanser: Perineal cleansers are products made from gentle cleansing ingredients suitable for the sensitive areas around your genitals. Antibacterial perineal cleansers have properties that remove harmful bacteria left behind after your skin comes into contact with urine and stool.
- Moisturizing Cream/Lotion: Hydrated skin is supple and less prone to irritation and breakage. Add over-the-counter perineal creams and lotion to your incontinence management kit so you can always protect your skin.
- Barrier Cream/Ointment: Barrier creams shield your skin from irritants such as bacteria and fungi. They also help your skin retain moisture from moisturizing creams and lotions. Use barrier ointments designed for the perineal area to avoid inadvertently irritating the delicate skin.
- Film Forming Skin Protectants: Some skin serums, sprays, and wet wipes form a visible protective layer to protect your skin from irritants in urine and stool. Film-forming skin protectants can also soothe existing irritation and moisturize your skin.
- Antibacterial/Antifungal Cream: Over-the-counter topical antibacterial and antifungal creams can help combat the effects of the organisms in urine and stool. Apply these creams to the infected parts of your skin to soothe irritation and stimulate healing.
- Skin Powder: Antifungal powder is invaluable in preventing skin yeast infections. Apply powder over a barrier cream to keep your skin dry and eliminate breeding grounds for harmful fungi.
- Incontinence Pads/Underwear: Absorbent incontinence products are the first line of defense against the chemicals in bodily waste. Nexwear pads are highly absorbent and wide enough to prevent waste leakage. Our range of protective underwear is designed to look and feel like regular underwear, so they won't show through your clothing. Their breathable skin-shield layer wicks away moisture to keep your skin dry and healthy.
When to Seek Help
While you can conduct incontinence skin care using over-the-counter products, you should seek medical help if:
- The skin irritation doesn't respond to different treatment products
- You develop a rash that spreads rapidly across your skin
- Your rash is itchy, burns, or erupts and leaves open sores
- Your skin turns flaky, scabby, or starts to peel
The Bottom Line
Skin problems are common among people with incontinence. However, most issues can be easily resolved through:
- Maintaining proper hygiene by changing incontinence pads on time and cleaning your skin with perineal cleansers and washcloths
- Applying moisturizing and protective skin creams, lotions, and powders
- Eating a diet filled with nutrients that promote healthy skin
- Using Nexwear incontinence pads and underwear to prevent prolonged contact between your skin and bodily waste
Nexwear products are designed with the goal of making your incontinence journey easier. Shop our collections now to reap the benefits of our skin-friendly products.