NIH Press Release
National Institute of Diabetes and
Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Friday, Jan. 10, 1997
1:00 PM Eastern Time

Lisa Schwartzbach, NIDDK
(301) 496-3583
Susan Reid, NKUDIC
(301) 654-4415

Bladder Awareness Campaign Encourages Women to Seek Treatment

Women need to know they don't have to live with urine leakage or loss of bladder control any longer because many treatments--from pelvic floor exercises to surgery--are available. That's the message the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and a partnership of professional and patient advocacy groups concerned with urinary incontinence are highlighting in Let's Talk About Bladder Control for Women," a new campaign to make women aware that this costly and embarrassing condition is treatable.

About 11 million of the 13 million Americans affected by urinary incontinence are women, according to the Federal government's Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR). Urinary incontinence costs the United States $16.4 billion per year by AHCPR's estimate, though some public health researchers estimate nearly double that figure.

Urinary incontinence can have a hugely negative impact on the social and economic well-being of people who try to cope without seeking treatment," says Leroy Nyberg, Ph.D., M.D., director of the urology and women's health research programs for NIDDK. They buy absorbent products, they may become reclusive." Some elderly people even become institutionalized unneccessarily because of urinary incontinence, Nyberg adds.

The odds of improvement are excellent for women who seek treatment. But most women don't.

There are several reasons why women don't seek help for urinary incontinence," according to Alan J. Wein, M.D., co-chair of the Bladder Health Council of the American Foundation for Urologic Disease and professor and chairman of urology at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center in Philadelphia. Through a recent survey on women and incontinence, we learned that a quarter of the women surveyed feel embarrassed about urinary incontinence and are uncertain about dealing with the condition in social situations. Many women are unaware that a physician can help improve their condition or believe their problem isn't severe enough to consult a physician."

Also, many people, including many doctors, believe that incontinence occurs naturally with pregnancy, childbirth, menopause and aging. And many health care professionals lack the training to successfully treat urinary incontinence. A recent project funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and AHCPR found that many physicians felt they did not know how to diagnose or treat urinary incontinence and did not routinely ask their patients about the symptoms of it. Most of the physicians surveyed reported feeling that they should be more active in discussing incontinence with their patients.

The Let's Talk About Bladder Control for Women awareness campaign offers easy-to-read booklets explaining the symptoms, types and causes of poor bladder control as well as treatment options. The materials are designed to encourage and enhance communication between and among women and their health care providers. Free consumer and health care provider kits are available after January 10 by calling NIDDK's National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse at 1-800-891-5388. The materials are also online at .

The core partners in Let's Talk About Bladder Control for Women are the American Uro-Gynecologic Association, American Urological Association, American Foundation for Urologic Disease, National Association For Continence, Society of Urologic Nurses and Associates and the Simon Foundation for Continence.