Embarrassing but Crucial Symptoms Doctors Wish You’d Tell Them That Many Patients Don’t
There are very few people except seven- or eight-year-old boys who enjoy and feel confident talking openly about embarrassing health issues without squirming, cringing and feeling super nervous. But when it comes to your health, you need to get comfortable in doing so in the confidential space of your doctor’s office. Here’s what your doctor wants and needs to know about:
You have a growth that you haven’t noticed before or is getting bigger or changing in form
Even if you don’t think it looks like much let alone serious, always notify your doctor if you see or feel any unusual growths, lumps, spots or marks on your body. Doctors typically don’t scan every part of your body when they see you besides at a full annual check-up. So it’s your responsibility to keep an eye out for anything that doesn’t look or feel right. This includes examining your genital areas. Abnormal growths can indicate diseases as well as cysts and skin cancer melanomas. So no matter how personal the location, don’t hold back from telling your family or primary care physician. They’ve seen and studied every part of the anatomy and it’s all in a day’s work for your doc.
Your feet funny-looking, or fetid and funky
Having stinky, itchy feet is a common concern that doctors treat on a daily basis and is typically due to bacteria or fungus that can be treated with topical creams and powders. But nail color and swelling of the feet can indicate more concerning conditions. Pale toenails (or fingernails) can be caused by heart problems, liver disease, or anemia, and a dark patch under a nail could be malignant melanoma (skin cancer). Foot swelling can indicate lymphedema, when fluid builds up and impairs wound healing; a swollen foot joint, typically of the big toe, can indicate gout; and edema—water retention and fluid build-up could indicate diabetes. Dry skin and brittle nails can be a symptom of a thyroid issue.
You have bladder or bowel problems or changes
Problems in the bathroom? Strange colored stools? Diarrhea on the run? The urge to pee all the time? It may make you blush talking about bowel movements, but again, Doc has heard it all before. In fact, you’re probably not the first person in a day with whom she or he has had an in-depth bladder or bowel movement conversation. We’re just going to say it: If your stool looks anything except smooth and sausage-like for an extended period, or your urine is a weird color or smells strange, then you should be discussing it with your doctor. Yellowish stool can be a sign of celiac disease or lactose intolerance. Red or black stool can mean gastrointestinal bleeding. Chronic constipation can signal inflammatory bowel disease. Chronic diarrhea or chronic constipation can both be signs of cancer. Burning and frequent urination of small amounts, cloudy urine, and pinkish urine (a sign of blood) can indicate a urinary tract infection, and signs of blood in urine is typically a first sign of bladder cancer. So be prepared to be seven years old again and comfortable talking about your bathroom habits.
Your anus is itchy all the time
OK, it may make you go beet red and cringe with embarrassment but take a deep breath and prepare to be brave and don’t beat about the bush, because your doctor needs to know if anything is going on ‘back there.’ And guess what, your anus is just another body part, we all have one, and yet again, your doctor has probably heard this complaint hundreds of times. Reasons can range from hemorrhoids, yeast infections or eating citrusy or spicy foods, to skin conditions including psoriasis and eczema. But it can also be a symptom of a sexually transmitted disease, parasites or an early sign of bowel cancer—all which need your doctor’s risk assessment for screenings and tests. So open up about your anus to your doc and don’t be shy.
You have uncontrollable bad breath
Your doctor may get an early indication of the issue on hand as you’re stammering and getting up the courage to talk about it. If you’re practicing good dental hygiene habits, brushing your teeth, flossing and using mouthwash but still have chronic halitosis, the clinical term for uncontrollable bad breath, it’s time to talk to your doctor. Sometimes it’s simply caused by supplements. Of course, it could be a symptom of periodontal disease, post-nasal drip or sleep apnea. But it could also potentially be a sign of something more serious, including a stomach ulcer, gastric cancer, lung cancer, or kidney failure. So even if you’re talking with your hand in front of your face, talk to your doctor if breath mints aren’t doing the trick.
You sweat constantly
The clinical term for perspiring profusely is hyperhidrosis, and while nearly five percent of people in America suffer from excessive sweating, a 2016 study found that only 51 percent brought it up with their doctor. Topical creams and injectables such as Botox often do the trick in reducing symptoms, but hyperhidrosis can also point to more health issues including hormone imbalance, an overactive thyroid, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
You’re having sexual issues
Thanks to pharmaceutical commercials on TV running on a loop, we’re getting more comfortable hearing about sexual issues such as erectile dysfunction and vaginal itch. But talking about them—especially when it concerns you—is an entirely different situation for most people. But let’s say it all together now: “Doctors have seen and heard it all before, multiple times.” If something isn’t working or is hurting, see your doctor and speak openly about what’s going on, so she or he can determine the best course of treatment. For many, we’d opt for being embarrassed in the doctor’s office over the bedroom.