Adult Diapers and Pads Aren’t a Business Opportunity – They’re a Tragedy


If you read the financial press, you may be struck by a barrage of exciting articles about a growth industry that is poised to become a $20 billion market in the near future. Fortune Business Insights, Reuters, and numerous other market outlets are talking about the growth in sales going on into the future as far as the eye can see with robust corporate earnings.

Sadly, it is the market for adult diapers and pads to manage urinary and fecal incontinence.

What makes it such a tragedy is not simply the increase in the incidence of the terrible problem of bladder and bowel leakage.It’s that this condition is at least 90% curable with current, noninvasive treatment – and that fact is simply not well known.

As a physician and surgeon practicing for over 20 years in the area of bowel and bladder control, I find it especially irksome when I see the huge amount of shelf space devoted to adult diapers and pads, and I read the business articles extolling the fortunes being made selling adult diapers and pads to all of us as we age and develop incontinence. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Although there is a huge profit incentive for diaper manufacturers, the purveyors of absorbable pads, and the makers of ineffective medications, there is a better way. Technology to restore bladder and bowel control has progressed enormously in the last 20 years.

Today, the vast majority of individuals who are currently avoiding social engagements, spending $200 a month on pads and diapers, and cleaning up wetness and soiling on a daily basis could instead be enjoying full active lives and tossing away those pads and diapers.

The approach to resolving bowel and bladder leakage hinges on a technology that successfully switches back on the body’s natural neuromuscular system in the pelvic floor, restoring strength to the sphincters of the rectum, bladder, and urethra.

It was a novel strategy 25 years ago, building upon some of the lessons learned from cardiac pacemaking technology, in which a small computer chip was placed under the skin with electrode leads traveling directly to the heart.

Over decades, pace making technology has proved remarkably effective, restoring normal heartbeats and rhythms to millions of people who would otherwise suffer with severely troubled circulation.

Sacral neuromodulation, as it is called, involves a simple 30-minute procedure in which a small chip, about the size of a USB port, is placed under the skin, and a small electrode lead travels in the tailbone area to send a gentle current to the plexus of neural innervation of the pelvic floor.

Like cardiac pace making, this technology restores the natural strength and rhythms the body once had. In the most recent FDA trials, sacral neuromodulation technology proved 90% effective at restoring bowel and bladder control.

Comprehensive pelvic floor or continence centers will use this remarkable technology as the cornerstone treatment, augmented by pelvic floor therapy exercises, and injectable fillers that can plump up the sphincter tissues.Rarely is invasive surgery ever necessary or helpful.

The sacral neuromodulation therapy is simple to undergo, and suitable for even the very elderly. You or your loved one will walk out of the treatment center with two Band-Aids and no real need for recovery time from this non-invasive procedure that has transformed the treatment of incontinence.

Estimates are that soon, more than 20 million Americans will be spending between $150 and $300 per month on diapers and pads. The social costs for people battling incontinence are far higher.Regrettably, the awareness of the successful treatment of bowel and bladder leakage remains discouragingly low among the public and even amongmedical doctors and nurses.

Yet the therapy produces strikingly successful results with non-invasive technology, was long-ago FDA approved, and remains fully covered by Medicare and virtually every health insurance plan.

Perhaps, in the coming decade, greater awareness of the available therapy will lead to more cures of incontinence for millions of people and fewer sales of pads and diapers.

How has incontinence, yours or that of a loved one, affected your life? Do you spend thousands of dollars per year on adult diapers and pads? Did you know that Medicare covers sacral neuromodulation costs? Please share your experiences and stories with the community.

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