Former Olympian Retton shares her struggle with OAB, launches educational campaign

May 24, 2005

For most of her life, former Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton suffered from severe urgency and frequency related to overactive bladder. It wasn't until she consulted a urologist just over a year ago that Retton, now 37, received relief from her sometimes debilitating symptoms.Retton has gone public with her personal struggle in a campaign backed by Pfizer. She said she hopes her own experience will help others with the condition seek proper care.

For most of her life, former Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton suffered from severe urgency and frequency related to overactive bladder. It wasn't until she consulted a urologist just over a year ago that Retton, now 37, received relief from her sometimes debilitating symptoms.

Retton has gone public with her personal struggle in a campaign backed by Pfizer. She said she hopes her own experience will help others with the condition seek proper care.

"It wasn't until I saw a specialist, a urologist, that I was taken seriously. And that's what I suggest and urge people to do--go see a specialist. This is what they do; this is what they know," Retton told Urology Times prior to separate appearances this week at the Pfizer booth and at San Antonio's Rivercenter mall.

The educational effort, called "Life Beyond the Bathroom," includes public appearances by Retton and an interactive web site aimed at encouraging those with symptoms of OAB to discuss the problem with their physician.

"I was easily diagnosed by a urologist," Retton said. "She said, go home and take a diary--how much you drink and how much you're putting out. I did, and after the second day, it was pretty eye-opening. I was going sometimes 25 times a day and having the urge all the time."

The gold medal winner in the 1984 Summer Olympics said the condition forced her to use a number of creative coping skills, including limiting fluid intake.

"And as an athlete, that's not a good thing; we've got to hydrate ourselves."

Retton now takes long-acting tolterodine (Detrol LA), which she said has cut her bathroom time in half.Although not embarrassed by the condition, Retton believes the public awareness campaign will help those who are.

"We're hoping to break down that barrier of embarrassment, because I think a lot of people are timid and embarrassed to talk about it," she said. "I want to take that stigma away. We're just trying to really educate people and have them take control of their health. It's such an easily treatable condition, and easily diagnosed."