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Silent No More

From frequent urination to gas, experts pull the cover off the six most embarrassing women's health problems.


Frequent urination is not normal, but it is common in the perimenopausal years, says Jacqueline Thielen, MD, a consultant at the women's health clinic at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minn. Medications, certain dietary changes, and Kegel exercises to strengthen some of the muscles that control the flow of urine may help, she says.

Frequent urination can also be a sign of an underlying illness and requires evaluation, she tells WebMD. It may also be a side-effect of a medication you are taking.

Gas. Everybody has it, but most people don’t want to own up to it. "Tell your doctor because gas is very usually dietary-related and can also be treated with dietary modification and over-the-counter products like Gas-X or Beano," Moore says.

Mayo's Thielen says that "there are more things that can cause gas than just eating beans, and I think people are somewhat surprised that drinking through straws can introduce air in the gut and cruciferous vegetables can also cause gas."

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This disorder is marked by abdominal pain or discomfort and a change in bowel patterns, such as loose or more frequent bowel movements, diarrhea, and/or constipation. It affects 10%-15% or more of the general population, according to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, based in Milwaukee, Wis.

"People may be slightly embarrassed because they feel so different than everyone else, but it is extremely common in women, especially, and there is a lot of information out there that can help make life more tolerable," Thielen says. "A lot of women suffer in silence and think they are by themselves when a large population is affected in the same way."

Excessive sweating. Many women feel ashamed about excessive sweating, whether it's their palms or their underarms. "This needs to be evaluated by a doctor," Moore says. "There are prescription antiperspirants and, in extreme cases, Botox injections can also be a solution to sweaty palms, soles of the feet, and underarms."

Thielen adds: "If you do see a difference in your sweating, or if it's problematic and you don’t do certain activities because of the excessive sweating, or it causes distress in daily living, there are treatment options."

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Where do you have excessive sweating?