Devices to Control SUI in Women
Vaginal Devices for SUI
If your pelvic floor muscles are weak and you are female, an inserted vaginal device may prevent leaks. Examples are tampons, over-the-counter pessaries and custom fitted pessaries. These devices typically press against the wall of the vagina and the urethra. The pressure helps reposition and support the urethra. This leads to fewer leaks with minimal risk. There are different types of devices women can use which include:
- Vaginal Pessaries
A vaginal pessary is a firm yet flexible device that is inserted into the vagina. It repositions and supports the urethra and/or uterus.
- Disposable Pessaries
A single use, disposable pessary was recently approved for use in the U.S. It is available over-the-counter without a prescription. You insert the device with an applicator, like a tampon. Once the pessary is in the vagina, the core and cover of the device support the urethra.
Disposable devices are made to be used for a maximum of 8 hours in a 24-hour period. You remove it from the vagina using a pull string. It is thrown away after use. All pessaries have some risk of irritation or infection. If you notice this, let your healthcare provider know.
Some women find that inserting a simple tampon during exercise prevents leaks. But tampons have not been approved for this purpose. There is no research that shows tampons can prevent urinary leakage.
- Non-Disposable Pessaries
Prescription pessaries are small, often made of medical grade silicone. These must be fitted just for you by a specialist. Like other pessaries, they are inserted into your vagina. Your pelvic floor muscles hold it in place. When fitted properly, you won't notice that it's there. You can go about your daily activities comfortably. Your healthcare provider can remove, check and replace them. Or they can teach you how to remove, clean and replace them yourself.
Some women wear the pessary 24 hours a day, but most women wear them during the day and remove them at night. The pessary must be removed before having sexual intercourse. It's best not to wear them all the time, since they can irritate the urethra. This could lead to blood in the urine (hematuria) and urinary tract infections. Still, these devices are useful for reducing leaks during strenuous activities like running, lifting or playing tennis.
Pessaries are generally safe, with a small risk of infection. If you use a pessary, set a schedule to visit with your healthcare provider. That way it can be checked, cleaned, and refitted on a regular basis or as needed.
To help prevent SUI during high activity, you may have the option of an occlusive device (also called urethral plug). These types of devices block the urethra, while a vaginal device adds support through the vagina.
A simple urethral plug can be inserted to create a barrier. They may be shaped like a thin flexible rod. Some have a balloon on the end that can be inflated and deflated to block leaks. When it's time to urinate, they can be deflated or pulled out.
These plugs are used in rare and specific cases. Currently, there are no approved urethral plugs available in the U.S.
If you use any kind of vaginal device regularly to treat your SUI, your vaginal tissue may become irritated. Some devices should be thrown away after one use. Others need regular cleaning. If you use one of these devices, you should learn how to maintain good vaginal health. Also, be sure to set a schedule with your provider for regular check-ups and maintenance of these devices.
Devices to Control SUI in Men
Men may be offered a penile clamp/clip device to prevent SUI leaks. These external clamps may be used to restrict the flow of urine from the penis. Before buying this product, talk to your provider about the benefits or risks of using this device. Also, ask your healthcare provider about where you can buy this product.