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9 Embarrassing Health Conditions

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8. Fecal Incontinence

Likely causes: Previous vaginal childbirth (especially with an episiotomy); inactivity; prolapsed rectum; a history of hemorrhoids or "pushing" during constipation; diabetes, multiple sclerosis or Alzheimer's disease.

DIY treatments: Kegel exercises done frequently throughout the day, in which you squeeze — for 10 seconds — as if to stop urination or a bowel movement. Increase fiber intake to 20 to 30 grams daily. Avoid dairy, caffeine, cured or smoked meats, alcohol and sweeteners in sugarless gum.

What a doctor may do: Examine for Crohn's disease, colon cancer or other GI diseases; recommend anti-diarrhea medications, pelvic floor exercises, surgery or biofeedback techniques to help control bodily processes that normally occur involuntarily.

Noteworthy: Loss of bowel control affects one in 12 Americans, and is most common after age 50, affecting 10 percent of women.

9. Urinary Incontinence

Likely causes: In women, weakened pelvic muscles (often resulting from past vaginal childbirth) or thinning of skin in the vagina or urethra following menopause. In men, an enlarged prostate or prostate surgery. In either, obesity, urinary tract infections, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease or multiple sclerosis.

DIY treatments: Avoid caffeine, smoking and spicy foods. Kegel exercises can improve the problem and prevent progression.

What a doctor may do: Prescribe medications or an implantable device for overactive bladder (the "gotta go" type), surgery for stress UI (when leakage results from coughing, laughing or lifting).

Noteworthy: Urinary incontinence steadily increases with age, affecting up to 84 percent of nursing home residents. At any age, women are afflicted twice as often as men.

Sid Kirchheimer writes about health and consumer issues.

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