Help manage leaks with these bladder control essentials

A loss of bladder control is common in older adults, especially in women.1 As people age, their bladder muscles may get weaker. The bladder also loses its ability to hold as much urine as it once did.2

This lack of bladder control is known as urinary incontinence. It can take the form of leaks, especially when coughing or laughing. Or a person may not be able to make it to the bathroom in time. Or have the urge to go to the bathroom all the time.

There is treatment for these issues, and a primary care provider (PCP) may help determine the treatment option that may work best. Stocking up on reliable products may help stop leaks and odors. It can also help protect skin from the damage caused by urine.

When picking any type of bladder control product, it’s important to consider a few factors, says Paul Arnold, M.D., a urologist at AdventHealth Medical Group in Palm Harbor, Florida. The first is how serious the incontinence is. Another is the condition of the skin, and how sensitive it is.

Here is a list of some dependable over-the-counter (OTC) items and how they work to help keep dry.

OTC incontinence products that help stop leaks

Disposable underwear

Disposable underwear looks like full-coverage underpants with padding.

Good for: People with moderate to heavy leaking, says Dr. Arnold.

How they work: “Disposable underwear is effective in quickly absorbing a lot of urine throughout the day and night,” Dr. Arnold says. “It’s designed to keep the skin dry by wicking away the moisture.” That can help prevent any skin damage, especially for people who can’t change out of a wet pair right away.

Bladder control pads

These absorbent pads are worn inside underwear. 

Good for: Minor to medium-sized leaks, says Dr. Arnold. 

How they work: Like disposable underwear, they absorb urine quickly to keep you dry, says Dr. Arnold. 

Can you use sanitary pads instead to keep dry? Yes, but it’s better to use bladder control pads, says Dr. Arnold. They’re meant to absorb urine, which flows out of the body more quickly than blood, he explains. 

In fact, says Dr. Arnold, bladder control pads are 4 times more absorbent than sanitary pads. And they have the added benefit of controlling odors and keeping your skin from becoming irritated, he notes.

Still, it’s “very important to change the pad before it becomes too wet to protect against urinary leakage, unwanted skin irritants or odors,” he says. You’ll be able to tell if the pad feels soggy or heavy.


These are pads that protect furniture from urine leakage. You place them where you want added protection, such as the bed, sofa or recliner.

Good for: People with severe incontinence.

How they work: There are disposable pads for one-time use. Or, you can find reusable, washable underpads with a waterproof bottom. Both can also prevent moisture-associated skin damage, says Dr. Arnold.

UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage members with an OTC credit can download the UnitedHealthcare® app to check credit balance, use product scanner and more.

Bladder control products that keep skin healthy


Wipes may be gentler on the skin than ordinary toilet paper. That’s especially true if you have hemorrhoids. One study found a significant link between urinary incontinence and hemorrhoids.3

Good for: Cleaning the area around your bottom.

How they work: Wipes have a mild hygienic soap, says Dr. Arnold. “And that leads to better hygiene,” he adds. Many are called “flushable wipes,” but don’t flush them down the toilet. Throw them in the trash instead, as they may clog pipes.

Barrier creams

If you are using disposable underwear, the skin in that area is often wet. These types of creams and ointments keep the skin from becoming inflamed, irritated, red or sore.4

Good for: Someone who has severe incontinence, says Dr. Arnold. 

How they work: Dr. Arnold recommends looking for a topical that contains zinc oxide, dimethicone, petrolatum and/or cellulose gum. This combination “provides a barrier layer but also will heal areas when the skin is exposed or raw,” he says. Or use a thick paste that you don’t have to apply as often.

A provider may help figure out the right way to treat incontinence. In the meantime, these products may help bring some peace of mind.

Get more help with your everyday needs. Already a UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage member with an over-the-counter credit? Easily find covered health care products in-store by using the product scanner on the UnitedHealthcare app.

Already a UnitedHealthcare® Medicare Advantage member?

Get more help with everyday needs. Have an over-the-counter-credit? Learn how to get everyday health care products in-store or online.