Your mother, your friend, your sister - chances are one of these three women have suffered from the symptoms of stress urinary incontinence (SUI), but she has been too embarrassed to admit it.

This is just one of the staggering facts revealed by a worldwide consumer survey, announced today, into the scale and emotional impact of SUI on women's lives.1

The survey paints an alarming picture. One in five SUI sufferers is so worried about accidental leaks that she spends as much as a third of her waking hours every day thinking about her embarrassing symptoms. That's five hours - enough time for an average walker to walk 15 miles (24 kilometres) or to fly from London to Egypt or Mexico to San Francisco.

Women surveyed say that SUI is more difficult to talk about than heavy menstrual periods, menopause or depression. Many women admit they are too embarrassed to discuss their symptoms with a family member or friend. If they talk at all, they prefer to talk to health professionals.

The global survey also reveals that when asked 'have you ever accidentally leaked urine when you sneeze, cough, laugh, lift or exercise?', one in three women has experienced symptoms of SUI, yet more than half say they've never heard of the medical condition: stress urinary incontinence.

Described as 'one of the last medical taboos' by the World Health Organization,2 SUI is preventing millions of women from living their lives to the fullest. In fact, SUI is dictating their lives - at home, professionally, socially and emotionally. In particular, women say they are concerned about odour and are reluctant to visit unfamiliar places: a trip to the new shopping mall is definitely off limits. Holidays are something most people look forward to, but for these women they are something they dread.

Women also worry about leaks while going to work or collecting their children from school. Most are reluctant to exercise, are scared they might leak while having a laugh with friends and are concerned about SUI's effect on dating and romantic relationships. While many of these women use sanitary pads to absorb the leaks, the pads make them feel uncomfortable. Their condition even affects the choice of clothes they wear - choosing dark clothes to better hide the leaks.

SUI is the accidental leakage of urine during physical activities - such as sneezing, coughing, laughing, lifting or exercise.3,4 It is the most common form of urinary incontinence in women.

The survey was conducted by NOP World (National Opinion Polls) and was supported by the International Continence Society Continence Promotion Committee (ICS - CPC) and the World Federation of Incontinence Patients (WFIP). NOP World interviewed more than 3,000 women in Brazil, Germany, South Africa, Sweden and the UK to find out what women know about urinary incontinence (UI) - particularly SUI - and to discover how these conditions affect their lives. The survey was funded by Eli Lilly and Company and Boehringer Ingelheim.

Announcing the results, Diane Newman, the ICS Continence Promotion Committee chair, says: "This survey confirms that healthcare professionals need to be taking SUI seriously: not only treating those women who present to us, but also encouraging the millions of women who are suffering from the symptoms of SUI to talk to their healthcare professional and receive effective treatment. There are now many options available to help, including effective medication and exercises, which means that these women no longer have to worry and suffer in silence."

Commenting on the results of the survey, Carol, a SUI sufferer in the UK and mother of three says: "It will be a big comfort for women with SUI who are suffering in silence, to know that they are not alone. Like these women, I saw that SUI had a huge impact on my life, affecting what I wore, going out with my friends and exercising. I thought that nothing could be done, but found the courage to go to my doctor who gave me advice and a medication called Yentreve® that has really helped. Now I feel as though I'm in control of my SUI rather than my SUI controlling me."

SUI and its symptoms

SUI symptoms are defined as the accidental leakage of urine during physical activities such as sneezing, coughing, laughing, lifting or exercising, and affect the social and emotional well-being of up to 65 million women worldwide.2 With nearly twice the prevalence of urge incontinence, SUI is the most common form of urinary incontinence in women causing embarrassment, social isolation and a reduction in quality of life. Despite being bothered by their symptoms, women often do not seek appropriate medical attention because they are embarrassed or mistakenly believe SUI symptoms are a normal part of aging. Several risk factors or contributing variables have been suggested for the development of SUI symptoms and include childbirth, obesity, pelvic organ prolapse or chronic coughing.5

Eli Lilly and Company and Boehringer Ingelheim

In November 2002, Eli Lilly and Company and Boehringer Ingelheim signed a long-term agreement to jointly develop and commercialize duloxetine hydrochloride. Duloxetine is currently being marketed for the treatment of depression, stress urinary incontinence and diabetic peripheral neuropathic pain.

This partnership covers most countries worldwide with few exceptions. In the USA, the collaboration excludes neuroscience indications.

About Eli Lilly and Company

Lilly, a leading innovation-driven corporation, is developing a growing portfolio of best-in-class pharmaceutical products by applying the latest research from its own worldwide laboratories and from collaborations with eminent scientific organizations. Headquartered in Indianapolis, Ind., Lilly provides answers - through medicines and information - for some of the world`s most urgent medical needs.

About Boehringer Ingelheim

The Boehringer Ingelheim group is one of the world's 20 leading pharmaceutical companies. Headquartered in Ingelheim, Germany, it operates globally with 144 affiliates in 45 countries and more than 36,000 employees. Since it was founded in 1885, the family-owned company has been committed to researching, developing, manufacturing and marketing novel products of high therapeutic value for human and veterinary medicine.

In 2004, Boehringer Ingelheim posted net sales of 8.2 billion euro while spending nearly one fifth of net sales in its largest business segment Prescription Medicines, on research and development.

Please note: This survey was supported by the International Continence Society Continence Promotion Committee and the World Federation of Incontinence Patients

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