Adult incontinence is now a big problem, albeit a greatly ignored one, in many families. It is a debilitating health problem that has a significant impact on both an individual’s and their family’s social and economic situation. According to statistics from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the prevalence in women stands at 3% to 17% while in men, it is at 3% to 11% overall. The National Association for Incontinence (NAI) says that over 25 million adult Americans suffer from some form of urinary incontinence, while the American Urological Association (AUA) says that a quarter to a third of men and women in the U.S. suffer from urinary incontinence. Skin problems, more so incontinence-associated dermatitis (IAD), are among the biggest risks associated with any form of incontinence. If you suffer from incontinence or you are a caregiver to someone suffering from incontinence, it is important to understand complications associated with the condition to address them effectively. This article will provide you with more information about skin care and incontinence to help caregivers provide better quality services.
Incontinence and Skin Problems
Anyone suffering with the loss of bladder or bowel control is at risk of skin rashes and infection. Due to the stigma associated with incontinence, millions of people suffer in silence without seeking proper care. They also miss out on incontinence management solutions that are available in the market. Ignoring this medical problem ultimately affects not only the mental health of the individual but their physical situation as well.
The wetness around the buttocks, upper thighs, gluteal cleft, lower abdomen, groin (in men), hips, genitals, labial folds (in women) and between the pelvis and rectum (perineum) can lead to skin rashes; and when not treated, this can lead to serious infections. Worse still, urine can irritate the skin and make it susceptible to attack by fungi or yeast.
For senior citizens receiving care at home or in nursing facilities, skin problems associated with incontinence are also common. These skin problems include irritation, redness, lesions, pain or tenderness, burning, itching, peeling, and yeast infections.
Over time, a person suffering from incontinence is susceptible to bedsores especially if they are immobile or not receiving good quality care. Many older adults in nursing facilities suffer a lot due to these skin problems, and they do not enjoy their twilight years.
The main causes of incontinence-associated dermatitis (IAD) include:
- Increase in the skin’s pH level
- Creation of harsh ammonia due to urinary and fecal incontinence
- Skin damage or erosion as bacteria break down protein in keratin-producing cells
If you are a caregiver, the main skin problems to look out for include:
i. Incontinence dermatitis: Also known as diaper rash, incontinence dermatitis occurs due to irritation of the skin causing it to break down.
ii. Fungal infections: Normally, fungal infections thrive in warm, moist, dark areas and this is the exact environment around the groin area of people suffering from fecal and urinary incontinence. These infections cause a burning sensation due to the rash that covers the surrounding skin.
iii. Bacterial infection: With time, open sores and cracks in the skin caused by wetness around the private parts will lead to bacterial infections. Bacteria from body waste can come in contact with the moist open skin leading to infections. This is a big problem, especially among the elderly, whose skin is tender.
iv. Macerated skin: Continued fecal or urine loss can lead to water logging on the skin. It compromises the integrity of the skin and causes damage in case of friction. Macerated skin is at risk of bed sores and infections hence the need for immediate treatment.
With this knowledge, it is easier to manage skin care when dealing with incontinence more effectively.
Best Skin Care Tips for Adult Incontinence
If you want to offer good quality care to a person suffering from any form of incontinence, you should start by taking care of their skin. Keeping the skin around the private parts dry is the ultimate goal and it is not an easy one to achieve. Remember in this case, urine loss is involuntary and you have to take a proactive approach to deal with the problem. In this case, the best treatment for skin problems is prevention. The following skin tips will help you improve the quality of care you provide. Read on:
1. Keep skin clean and dry: This is easier said than done but you can do this by washing the person’s buttocks and between their legs using warm water and drying the area every time you change the pad. Clean the skin with mild, dilute soap and water then rinse well and gently pat the area dry.
2. Avoid use of alcohol-based products/ perfumes on the skin: The skin around the groin area is sensitive and this is more the case for the elderly. Detergents and other solutions with alcohol will irritate and exacerbate the already delicate situation by causing soreness, allergic rashes among other complications. The same goes for perfumed moisturizers due to the sensitivity of the skin around this area.
3. Use high-quality incontinence protection: There are high-quality adult diapers in the market and you should invest in the best to manage and control incontinence. These products keep the user dry and protect the skin from rashes and other complications. A highly absorbent diaper is the best, but you must also change it regularly to avoid skin water logging. Look for diapers that come with extra features including wetness indicator, odor protection, and anti-leak guards among others.
4. Use recommended moisturizers: Moisturizing creams can help keep the skin moist but only if they do not contain alcohol. Talk to your patient’s doctor and ask for recommendations on which products are safe to use.
5. For bedridden patients: Check the skin for pressure sores and seek immediate treatment. Help the patient change position often and change sheets and clothing immediately they are soiled.
6. Barrier creams: A barrier cream that contains zinc oxide will help protect the skin against wetness and irritants. For best results, apply the cream each time after cleaning and drying the skin. These Anti-fungal products inhibit bacteria growth.
Dealing with adult rashes in case of urinary or fecal incontinence is a daunting task. However, with these tips, you can do it. It is the first step towards providing better quality care, and you will note an improvement in the overall condition of the patient. Click here to know more Adult diaper rash.