It's a problem women begin to experience between the ages of 30 and 50 but the majority never mention to a doctor. Those who do will suffer three to 10 years before they bring up the subject.
Stress urinary incontinence, the leaking of urine during day-to-day activities, is upsetting for women to talk about. But Olympic speed skater Bonnie Blair, who overcame her embarrassment and was successfully treated for the condition, is bringing attention to the subject as part of a national campaign, "Breaking the Ice About SUI."
Most women don't realize it, but 80 percent of those affected by stress urinary incontinence can be treated successfully, according to James Raders, medical director of Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery, a private practice.
"Aging, menopause and childbirth are all risk factors for SUI," Raders says. "The good news is that women have many different treatment options available to them."
The condition occurs when the vaginal wall weakens, resulting in inadequate support of the urethra. It frequently follows childbirth, as well as hormonal and physical changes.
Like many women, Blair was a new mother when she discovered she had the condition. "When I went on my first run after having my son, I didn't get more than half a block before my shorts were soaked," she says. "I was very upset. As an athlete, I was used to being active and not having anything slow me down."
Blair found she could not do daily activities like lifting her child, picking up a laundry basket or playing golf without worrying she might have an accident. For a long time, embarrassment kept her from opening up to her doctor or even to her husband, and her quality of life and confidence suffered.
She says she first tried to cope by wearing dark shorts, using feminine pads and limiting her intake of fluids. Eventually, she talked to her doctor, learned she had stress urinary incontinence and explored some of the treatments.
Treatment options for the condition include pelvic-floor exercises to strengthen the pelvic muscles; electrical stimulation to help return the injured muscles to fitness and biofeedback to record progress in strengthening treatments and exercises; medical devices that block or capture urine; and surgery to repair or lift the urethra or bladder neck to provide support during straining or sudden movement.
Blair encourages women who are suffering from incontinence to talk to their doctors about it, because there are several types of incontinence, and a correct diagnosis is critical to address the condition.
For more information about treatment options and Blair's story, visit www.beatsui.com or call (888) 496-3227 for a free brochure.