How to address your most embarrassing health concerns
8/7/2015 2:08 PM
From sexually transmitted diseases to breast issues and “ingrown hairs in awkward places,” more than half of survey respondents cited their female parts as the root of their distress in the doctor’s office.
Dr. Teresa Irwin, board certified in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery, said it’s important to have a sense of trust with your physician so that you feel comfortable discussing your most sensitive medical issues with them.
Irwin gives her patients a questionnaire to fill out in the waiting room ahead of time that gives them a chance to open up about things they may feel embarrassed to bring up, such as vaginal discharge or if they are in a mutually monogamous relationship. “Patients should take advantage of this vehicle when it’s available because it helps break the ice on embarrassing health care issues,” she said.
The thought of discussing sexual concerns and libido issues with your nurse or doctor may fill you with dread, but according to Brent Sanderlin, DO, these types of concerns are very common. Sanderlin says his patients often come in for a separate issue and delay discussing sexual dysfunction until the very end of the visit. “This isn’t a good idea because we really need more time to discuss the problem so we can get to the underlying cause of it,” he said.
Dr. Sanderlin says that blood vessels, nerves and hormones all play a role and need to be working correctly. Sexual dysfunction can be attributed to other medical conditions, medications and emotional issues. Because there are several factors at play, some detective work must be done to solve the problem.
“Anything having to do with poop” was a common response to our embarrassing health topics survey. And when it comes to number two, there’s a good chance a gastroenterologist will want to take a closer look at your intestines via a colonoscopy.
If a colonoscopy is ordered, gastroenterologist Shannon Marek, MD, said the patient is put to sleep and is not aware of anything that’s going on during the procedure. “They usually argue about whether I did anything or not. It’s like a blissful 20 minute nap, and then the patient goes to lunch.”
When it comes to any health concern, Marek says patients should be open with their medical providers and avoid over-analyzing the situation. “It’s a lot easier than it really seems, and it’s really sad that a lot of people avoid it thinking that it’s going to be so bad when it can give them peace of mind or save their life.”
The bottom line
Addressing uncomfortable health ailments can be as simple as saying, “I have a concern.” Keep in mind that your doctor is a medical professional equipped to steer you in the right direction. As embarrassing it may feel, Irwin, Marek and Sanderlin agree that patients must get past their insecurities in the best interest of their future health and happiness.