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Is Shame Preventing You From Seeking Medical Treatment?

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Incontinence. Hemorrhoids. Vaginal discharge. Erectile dysfunction. Painful sex. Genital warts. Are you too embarrassed to reveal these unspeakable conditions to doctors? Learn how to confess your symptoms so treatment can provide the relief you need.

Why Wait?

According to a , many diseases, conditions and lifestyles still carry a stigma in our society. These include unbecoming bladder, bowel and genital leaks, smells and pains. Research shows two out of three patients prefer to suffer in silence rather than discuss indelicate conditions with doctors. Even before the Internet allowed anonymous access to medical advice, American surveys confirmed shame was the main reason for deferring medical care.

Confide in Your Doctor

If unmentionable body parts itch, hurt, smell, bleed, look or feel abnormal, you need medical help. Embarrassing symptoms don’t mean you’ve done something wrong, but procrastination could jeopardize your health. Change doctors if necessary. Women often feel more comfortable discussing bodily function and genital problems with female doctors. Likewise, men are more likely to open up with male physicians. Challenge yourself to be brave. Quit agonizing over unpleasant warning signs and make an appointment today. Take a list of medications, symptoms and questions. Get to the point immediately. Speak up clearly and honestly. Use proper body part names, not euphemisms. Nothing you divulge about your body will surprise physicians. They’ll calm your fears and offer treatment. A simple solution may bring quick relief. If your condition is serious, early detection and treatment are critical.


Admitting you wet your pants can be mortifying for adults. However, urine leakage increases with age, affecting up to 84 percent of nursing home residents. Women experience it twice as often as men. Causes include weakened pelvic muscles from past vaginal childbirth and postmenopausal skin thinning in the vagina or urethra. Male causes are enlarged prostate or prostate surgery. Contributing factors for both genders include obesity, urinary tract infections, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. Self-care tips involve avoiding caffeine, smoking and spicy foods. Try frequent daily Kegel exercises. Squeeze internally for 10 seconds as if stopping urination. Medical treatments include prescriptions, an overactive bladder implant and surgery for stress leakage while coughing, sneezing, laughing, lifting or straining. Fecal incontinence, or loss of bowel control, can be even more degrading to disclose. It affects one in 12 Americans, usually over age 50. Female causes include previous vaginal childbirth especially with an episiotomy, inactivity, prolapsed rectum, hemorrhoids, straining during constipation, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. Self-care remedies include Kegel exercises, 20 to 30 grams of daily fiber and avoiding dairy, caffeine, cured/smoked meats and alcohol. Your doctor may rule out GI diseases and colon cancer and prescribe anti-diarrhea medications, biofeedback or surgery.


Talking about swollen anal veins is as painful as the condition. Hemorrhoids affect more than 50 percent of people over 40. Causes include shame2pregnancy, straining during constipation and prolonged sitting. Early diagnosis is key because burning, itching, painful defecation and blood in your feces can signal anal infections and colorectal conditions. Drink 48 to 64 ounces of water and consume 30 plus fiber grams daily, use witch hazel wipes and apply diaper rash cream as a protective barrier. With prompt diagnosis, you may need just over-the-counter hemorrhoid treatments like ointments or suppositories. Delaying medical care can worsen your situation, perhaps requiring otherwise-avoidable surgery.

Vaginal Discharge

Vaginal yeast infections affect 75 percent of women. Organisms (yeast, bacteria and viruses), irritants (including douches and sprays) and insufficient estrogen also can cause burning during urination, itching and discomfort during sex. Decrease your vaginitis risk with cotton underwear, lose clothes, good hygiene and keeping your vulva area dry. Your doctor may do a pelvic exam and prescribe medication. If a physician diagnosed a past yeast infection with the same symptoms, you might try over-the-counter antifungal vaginal creams or suppositories.

Erectile Dysfunction

Men tend to boast about their sexual prowess, so acknowledging inadequacy can be humiliating. Erectile dysfunction (ED) disrupts 18 million American men’s sex lives. A study of over 1000 men showed that nine out of 10 who were unsure if they had ED experienced difficulty getting hard and lost stiffness after achieving erections. Contributing factors include stress, smoking, poor diet, being overweight and inactivity. Emory University research suggests regular exercise cuts ED risk in half. Poor cardiovascular health is the main cause, so seek treatment for it as well. ED prescriptions Cialis, Livitra and Viagra enable long-lasting erections.

Painful Sex

Dyspareunia, or painful intercourse, affects 17 to 45 percent of postmenopausal women. Over-the-counter water-based lubricants prevent vaginal dryness. Urinate after sex and wipe front to back. After ruling out endometriosis and sexually transmitted diseases, your doctor may prescribe an antifungal vaginal cream for a yeast infection or an antibiotic for a urinary tract infection. If a man experiences pain during ejaculation, he could have trichomoniasis. A study found this parasite increases prostate cancer risk by 40 percent. Only 30 percent of men realize they have this common STD. Your urologist will swab the area and prescribe an antibiotic if it tests positive.

Genital Warts

Being tested for a sexually transmitted disease can be demoralizing. However, various human papilloma virus (HPV) infections causing genital warts are linked to cervical cancer. Your doctor needs to distinguish them from bumps waxing or shaving can cause. Genital wart remedies include prescriptions and surgical removal plus more frequent pap smears. Use condoms to avoid sexually transmitted diseases. While any of these conditions could embarrass you, there is no reason to avoid telling your doctor. Weigh brief embarrassment against possible medical diagnoses and serious complications if you delay treatment.

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