Three Health Secrets Women Shouldn't Keep

It's time to break the silence surrounding these common, but embarrassing, health conditions.

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Why can we talk about arthritis and cholesterol levels with our family, friends and coworkers, but when it comes to certain conditions that are just as common, we clam up? Embarrassing medical conditions, like incontinence or painful sex, can be difficult to talk about - but remember that you are not alone. You are in good company and there are good treatments. Feel free to read this in the privacy of your home, but then open up to a doctor (maybe even your friends?) and put an end to the embarrassment.

In the Bathroom

Even though 1 in 4 women over 40 suffer from some type of urinary incontinence, most are too embarrassed to talk about it. Whether it's leaking a little when you laugh too hard, being unable to hold it until you reach the bathroom, or spraying instead of urinating in a steady stream, many women suffer unnecessarily from highly treatable problems. In fact, only 1 in 12 women will ever get help and yet 80% of the time urinary problems can be completely cured.

What You May Be Experiencing

Stress incontinence Leaking with a cough, sneeze or other kind of physical exertion such as heavy lifting. If your pelvic floor (comprised of the muscles that support your reproductive system) is weak, it can't keep your urethra closed during everyday abdominal pressures. This is especially common for women who have given birth. It can range from being a slight nuisance to requiring you to wear pads.

Urge incontinence A sudden, strong urge to go and, often, an inability to make it to the toilet. With urge incontinence, your bladder contracts excessively giving you little warning and leading to embarrassing accidents. It can be caused by a number of factors including urinary infections, bowel problems, strokes, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and other neurological conditions. If there is no obvious cause, the term for it is overactive bladder.

Mixed incontinence The most common kind of incontinence in women combines both stress and urge incontinence and doctors are unsure of the cause.

Spraying during urination For some women, the difficulty is not when they go to the bathroom, but how their body does it. Rather than coming out in a steady stream that can be aimed into a toilet, their urine sprays (kind of like when you put your thumb over the garden hose), wetting clothes, or even the bathroom. Several conditions can contribute to spraying, such as when muscles surrounding the urethra are too tight or there is a small growth at the end of the urethra called a caruncle, which is often found in postmenopausal women.