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BODY WATCH : A Subject Some Women Prefer to Ignore

October 18, 1994|C.A. Wedlan from wire service reports

Women are closemouthed when it comes to discussing incontinence. They'll suffer an average of seven years before seeking medical help. In women--who make up a hefty 85% of the 15 million incontinent Americans--bladder control diminishes because of pelvic floor muscles weakened by childbirth and post-menopausal loss of estrogen. They also have a wider pelvis than men.

Treatments include surgery, Kegel exercises to strengthen pelvic floor muscles, a pessary, medications and behavior-modification techniques, self-catheterizing and fat injections to tighten muscles around the urethra. Products are under development that will plug up the urethra a few hours at a time. One device adheres to and seals the urethra.

A Bitter Pill to Swallow

We called a pharmaceutical research company to talk about people who can't swallow pills. The woman we spoke to said just talking about the problem made her throat constrict. "I hate big chalky horse pills. So do my kids," she said. "You have to force yourself (to take pills) . . . at gunpoint."

Everyone we spoke with, from pharmacist to professor, either hated taking pills or knew someone who did. Daniel C. Robinson, associate professor and chairman of clinical pharmacy at USC, said, "I seem to get things stuck so I take large gulps of water . . . plenty of fluid to suspend and carry the tablet." Drinking lots of water proved to be the popular solution. Also, coated caplets were preferable to gel caps, which stick as soon as they're moistened.

You can try to overcome the aversion. Dennis J. Munjack, associate professor of psychiatry at USC, offered this: "When you eat, you pulverize your food into mush. Pills don't dissolve, so there's a sense of a hard object in the mouth and it won't go down the throat. Nick the pill with your fingernail. Use the smallest amount--even a granule. Take the small amount of the pill and swallow a lot of water so it can go down. Work up to the full amount of the pill until you don't feel that sensation in the back of the throat. Drink large amounts of water. Once you get the sense that the pill goes down OK, then you can start taking larger amounts."

Briefly . . .

Call (800) LUNG-USA for radon information and a $7 test kit (usually $15-$20) during National Radon Action Week, which ends Saturday . . . Free flu shots are available (you must be at least 18) by calling (310) 319-4560 for a Nov. 5 appointment, 9 a.m.-noon at Santa Monica Hospital's Les Kelley Auditorium, 1255 15th St., Santa Monica . . . Veterans in the Greater Los Angeles area can call (310) 824-6935 or (310) 824-6811 for free transportation to and from U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' West Los Angeles Medical Center for treatment . . . Michael Rouse of the Southern California College of Optometry suggests spraying eye medication on children's eyelids and lashes. It's as effective as traditional eye drops, minus the usual anxiety . . . In 1763, the Rev. Edward Stone, in a search to treat fever, found that willow tree bark yielded salicylic acid, a derivative of what is now known as acetylsalicylic acid, or aspirin.

* This health roundup appears in Life & Style on Tuesdays.

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