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Here at the Incontinence Resource Center and in everyday life, we hear all sorts of stupid things about incontinence! Many myths are perpetuated by the incontinence industry to sell us products that are cheaper for them to produce but don't really do the job we need them to do. In this article, I will explore many of the myths, both industry created and beliefs held by people and society. If you know of some I have not covered email the incontinence myth to us.
MYTH: This is one of the most common myths about incontinence in existence. This is probably due to the many commercials showing elderly folks. Fact is, there are as many, if not MORE younger adults and even children who live with incontinence! The estimates of incontinent individuals in the United States alone are in the 3 million range. This does NOT account for those who are afraid to talk to their doctor and just “manage on their own” believing it is a natural part of aging, and who are unreported for other reasons. Incontinence is one of those topics that people are even afraid to tell their doctor about!
2.Incontinence is a disease of its' own.
MYTH: Incontinence is always a result of some other underlying condition or illness that disturbs the nerve pathways between the brain, spinal cord and bowel and/or bladder or weakens the muscles used to control the flow of urine and/or feces. A sample of just SOME of the conditions that cause incontinence are: spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury, surgery, childbirth, infection and many other things. Incontinence can also be caused by cognitive/mental disabilities such as mental retardation, autism, etc... Incontinence never just happens on its' own. There is always an underlying cause and many of them can be treated and the incontinence cured or lessened significantly. Never hide your incontinence from your doctor. You may be hiding from a cure for it!
MYTH: This is one of the most devastating beliefs about incontinence! So many people believe that just because they may need to use diapers or other absorbent products or need to get to a bathroom quickly or whatever, that they are “stuck” at home and can't be out and about. With a little advance planning, you can live every bit as active as you were before and still manage your incontinence effectively without anyone ever knowing about it or “finding out”. I am a 47 year old guy who likes to go camping, go out with friends, enjoy church activities, etc.... Do you think the fact that I wear diapers stops me from that? NO WAY! The worst thing about incontinence is what people do to themselves!
MYTH: How vain a belief is this? If you really think that people are walking around and looking at your butt or crotch to see if the thick padding of a diaper or pad is there, incontinence is the least of your problems! Products now are cut so that they easily vanish under everyday clothes and if you wear a diaper or pad with a plastic backing, the crinkle of the plastic (if any) can easily be silenced by simply wearing a pair of underwear or other tight fitting underpant over it. I just wear a diaper under my jeans and all I wear are diapers with a plastic backing (That's a WHOLE other topic which I will cover in another article!) and I have NEVER heard any sound from the plastic, much less noticed a “diaper shaped bulge” under my clothing. Simply put, unless you go around advertising the fact you wear diapers or pull your pants down in public, people are just not going to know, much less care. I have friends who have been friends for so long they know everything about me....except about my incontinence, unless I mention it. Don't live in fear...live your life!
5. “A thinner product is a better product.”
MYTH: Here is a myth perpetuated by the manufacturing industry. The manufacturing industry says “thinner for your dignity” where what they really mean is “thinner is cheaper to package and ship”. When I was younger in the late 80s/early 90s, I used Attends Briefs (diapers). I bought them in the bulk packed cases where they did not come in small bags of 10 or 12...just two stacks of 48 diapers in one big bag in an institutional box. The box was HUGE! The product was great...wide enough, good padding coverage, good absorbency and skin dryness, etc.... The problem was, it cost the manufacturer, Procter & Gamble, a lot to ship. A shipping pallet can only hold about 10 to 15 boxes of that size and only so many pallets can be put on the truck. Compare that to the cases in today's time of the super thin product. You can fit two and a half of the modern day product in the same space as you could fit ONE case of the old institutional size box of Attends. This means that since you can get 25 boxes on a pallet, you are shipping 2.5 times the amount of product for the same price, as trucking companies generally ship by pallet, not by weight. More on a pallet for the same price means your profit goes up. The super thin product also allows the manufacturer to use less raw materials...again, saving them money. When was the last time you heard a baby complain “Man, this diaper is way too thick!”, but yet manufacturers will try to convince you thinner is better. Ever buy paper towels? How do they market those? “Thicker is more absorbent”, right? Why is thicker better and more absorbent in paper towels and toilet paper, yet thinner is more absorbent and better in diapers? Simple...marketing and economy. So, thinner is NOT always better. That will be covered in another article as well, but don't buy into the myth when trying to find a product that will work for you. Some types of incontinence demand a much thicker/heavier product for adequate protection and skin health.