"I'm more sensitive now to women when they say they've 'gotta go,'" says 51-year-old professional speaker, author, and prostate cancer survivor Chuck Gallagher. The Greenville, S.C., resident experienced mild incontinence for six weeks following his laparoscopic surgery. "Guys don't want to talk about it; it's embarrassing. They think they have to suck it up and deal with it."
And men aren't the only ones who don't want to talk about their little leaks or mild incontinence.
According to the National Association for Continence (NAFC), 25 million Americans suffer from transient or chronic urinary incontinence. Statistically, it's a condition that skews toward women; 75%-80% of sufferers are female. Even more staggering, women wait nearly seven years before talking to their doctor or seeking treatment. But regardless of gender, one-third of the population thinks incontinence is a natural part of aging, something they have to contend with rather than conquer.
"It's time for incontinence to come out of the 'water closet,'" says Jill Rabin, MD, chief of ambulatory care and urogynecology at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y. She is the co-author of Mind Over Bladder: I Never Met a Bathroom I Didn't Like. "This is a quality-of-life issue. You don't have to tolerate it. It's treatable in almost every situation."
Talking about a leaky bladder or the frequency of your bathroom breaks may not be fodder for Facebook updates. But more and more people are taking Rabin's advice and doing something about their incontinence. WebMD talked to real women and men who experienced incontinence at various points in their lives. Read on for their stories.