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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.


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."

Vaginal odor. This can be a sign of infection, Thielen says, but not necessarily a yeast infection. "Some women overuse over-the-counter yeast creams and may be missing out on more accurate treatments," she says. "Some women just think they smell differently, and this may have an effect on their body image or their feelings with regard to sexual activity," she says. The bottom line? "Talk to your doctor."

Lack of libido. "I think women are embarrassed to bring up decreased libido, but it could be a sign of a whole host of things," Thielen says. "Low libido could have psychological, biological, or social causes, so it really requires investigation of all those aspects to determine what the cause is," she says. For example, a woman may be taking on a caregiving role with her elderly parents so her time is consumed and she is physically and emotionally not available for sex (social). Low libido may be caused by depression, anxiety, or poor body image (psychological). Biological issues like heart disease, and diabetes, or drugs that affect arousal can also play a role in low libido, she says.

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Reviewed on January 07, 2010
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