Incontinence has a range of unpleasant side effects, including dermatitis. Incontinence associated dermatitis is uncomfortable and unpleasant. It can cause heat rash, itching, pain, and inflammation. There are steps you can take to soothe the irritated skin, and relieve the pain and itching associated with this condition.
Why incontinence affects the skin
Incontinence places your skin in prolonged contact with urine. Urine typically has a much higher (more alkaline) pH level than your skin. The longer the urine sits on your skin, the more it can become irritating.
Although incontinence underwear absorbs most of the urine, ultimately minimizing the moisture on the skin, some does remain. The longer the soaked underwear remains on the skin, the greater the pressure against the skin. This contributes to greater irritation and inflammation.
Signs of dermatitis include itching, redness, raised bumps, and rashes. Dermatitis can look a little different between individuals, so it can be challenging to diagnose.
Ways to manage incontinence associated dermatitis
By taking these steps, you can alleviate dermatitis, improve your skin’s health, and feel better overall.
Develop good habits – As soon after urination as possible, change the soiled incontinence underwear for a fresh pair. This helps to prevent dermatitis by removing the excess liquid from the skin before it can soak in. It’s not always possible to change right away, but try to do so when you can. It will make a noticeable difference.
Clean skin – As soon after urination as possible, clean off the skin with a mild, pH-balanced soap. This restores the skin’s natural pH, removes trace amounts of urine from the skin, and can break the cycle of skin damage. When you clean the skin, use a washcloth and apply gentle pressure. Excess pressure can irritate the already-inflamed skin.
Moisturize – After you clean the skin, apply an emollient moisturizer. This will replenish the moisture lost by the skin and soothe inflammation.
Protect the skin – Select a moisture-barrier spray or cream that contains zinc, dimethicone, or petrolatum. Because these compounds can actually block the urine from penetrating the skin, they can help to stop dermatitis.
Keep your doctor informed
If you regularly experience dermatitis associated with incontinence, tell your doctor. He or she can examine your skin, and may suggest complementary therapies. Your doctor may prescribe anti-fungal creams or powders and anti-inflammatory ointments that can help alleviate a severe case of dermatitis. If not treated, dermatitis can lead to pressure ulcers, which are painful and more difficult to treat. It’s important to inspect skin regularly for signs of irritation, and take immediate action if you notice signs of dermatitis. For more information about incontinence, and associated symptoms, please visit our incontinence resource center.