Managing incontinence

Several medical devices exist to treat incontinence in women:

Urethral insert

A urethral insert resembles a tampon that you can insert into the urethra (the passage for urine to pass from the bladder to the outside) to prevent urine leakage. Urethral inserts are best used in situations where incontinence is predictable, such as playing tennis, jogging, going to see a funny movie or play - any activity that may produce stress incontinence. When you need to urinate, you simply remove the insert.


This device is used to support your bladder, and it is best used by women with incontinence resulting from a prolapsed or dropped bladder. It is a stiff ring that you insert into the vagina. Because the vagina is situated under the bladder, the pessary helps support the bladder and consequently prevents urine leakage. Pessaries are available in several shapes and sizes, so you will usually need to see your doctor to get the pessary fitted. You can insert and remove it yourself. It can be worn all day, but must be cleaned regularly.

Most medical devices for incontinence are designed for women. Options for men include a penile compression device:

Penile compression device

This device is a clamp that is placed around the penis to compress the urethra. The pressure from the clamp prevents or reduces urine leakage. Every 2 to 3 hours, you must remove the device and empty the bladder. Penile compression devices are usually recommended for stress incontinence.

Some types of medical devices can be used by both men and women:


If your incontinence is a result of not being able to empty your bladder properly, your doctor may suggest you use a catheter. A catheter is a soft tube that is inserted into the urethra to drain the bladder. They may be used each time you need to go to the bathroom (self-intermittent catheterization) or worn constantly (Foley catheters). If the catheter is worn constantly, an external bag that holds the urine is usually attached to the leg. If you need to use a catheter, your doctor will recommend the right size and teach you how and when to use it.