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Skin care and incontinence

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Male urinary system
Male urinary system

Information    Return to top

People who have urinary or fecal (bowel) incontinence are at great risk for skin irritation, ulcers, and infection.

Others at risk for skin irritation include people who:

Use of diapers and other containment devices may prevent dirty bedding and clothing. However, these products tend to keep the urine or stool in constant contact with the skin. Over time, the skin can become damaged. Special care must be taken to keep the skin clean and dry.

Clean the skin and perineal area right after incontinence occurs. Cleanse the skin with a mild soap and water, rinse well, and gently pat dry. Cleaning the skin often may cause drying and irritation. Moisturizing creams may be used to keep the skin moist, however, avoid products that contain alcohol, because this may further irritate the skin. If you are receiving radiation therapy, ask your health care provider if it is okay to use any creams or lotions.

Several skin cleansers are specifically designed to cleanse and deodorize the skin without causing excessive dryness or irritation. These products include foams, non-aerosol sprays, and wet wipes (individual disposable towelettes). Be sure to follow the product's instructions. Some of the products do not require rinsing. Be aware that some people may have allergies to the fragrances used in these cleansers.

If there is constant exposure to urine or stool, consider using a skin sealant or moisture barrier. There are several creams or ointments that contain lanolin or petrolatum, which form a protective barrier on the skin. Some skin care products (often in the form of a spray or a towelette) actually create a clear, protective film over the skin.

Even if you use these products, you must still clean the skin after each incontinence occurrence. Reapply the cream or ointment after cleaning and drying the skin.

People who often have incontinence problems may develop a yeast infection on the skin. An itchy, red, pimple-like rash appears. Skin may feel raw.

There are several products (both over-the-counter and prescription) that can be used to treat the yeast infection. If the skin is constantly moist, a medicated antifungal powder (such as Mycostatin powder) may be used. A moisture barrier or skin sealant may be applied over the powder. An antifungal cream is also available for use in people who have a yeast infection on dry, cracked skin. If severe skin irritation develops, see your health care provider.

The National Association For Continence (NAFC) publishes a resource guide of continence products and services, which includes a listing of the manufacturers and distributors of specific products. To obtain this resource guide call 1-800-BLADDER or go to the website


Those who must stay in bed should:

Those who use a wheelchair should:

Update Date: 1/30/2008

Updated by: Michael Langan, MD, Department of Geriatrics, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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