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Embarrassing health questions, answered

“Umm … Doctor?”

A touchy health problem can be embarrassing to discuss, but your healthcare provider is your best source of information. Here’s how to talk more freely with him or her about something that’s bothering you:

  • No matter the issue, your provider has likely seen it before, in the course of treating hundreds or thousands of patients, and can offer advice or solutions.
  • Bear in mind that your physician isn’t judging you; he or she is there to help. If you put off seeking medical help, the condition may worsen.
  • If you’re uncomfortable starting a conversation about your problem, write a list of your symptoms and concerns, and give it to your provider at your appointment or bring in a magazine article about the problem. Having him or her start the discussion, armed with knowledge about your situation, can make it easier.

Some health issues require an immediate trip to your healthcare provider. Others are simply embarrassing. Read on for answers to some blush-inducing questions and advice on when to see your doctor.

What can I do for painful vaginal dryness?
ANSWER: Vaginal dryness is an unwelcome symptom of menopause, caused by reduced levels of estrogen in your body. Applying over-the-counter (OTC) moisturizing products that are intended to relieve vaginal dryness can be effective. Avoid bubble baths and douches; they cause irritation, not relief.

I sweat more than anyone I know. How can I avoid wet splotches on clothing?
ANSWER: Look for antiperspirants containing 10 percent to 15 percent aluminum chloride hexahydrate, which can help control underarm wetness. When they aren’t effective, it’s time to talk to your healthcare provider, as prescription medications and Botox injections can be an option.

Why do I pass gas so often? It’s so embarrassing!
ANSWER: It’s normal to pass gas 10 to 20 times a day. You may do so more often if you eat a high-fiber diet, including lots of fruits, vegetables and beans, or if you swallow air while chewing gum or drinking through a straw. Gas can also be caused by conditions ranging from lactose intolerance to inflammatory bowel disease. Keeping a detailed food journal, along with a record of when you pass gas, may help you make the connection between your flatulence and something in your diet. Try cutting back on high-fiber foods, and add them back to your diet slowly. OTC products that target gas may also help.

Why do I sometimes pass urine when I sneeze?
ANSWER: Millions of women experience urinary incontinence, often because of the stress placed on the body during pregnancy and childbirth; menopause; or simple aging. Try minimizing the problem by limiting alcohol and caffeinated beverages (they have a diuretic effect, which means they make you go to the bathroom more often). Kegel exercises may help strengthen the pelvic muscles that hold your urine. If these approaches don’t help, your healthcare provider can help you figure out the best treatment for the condition.

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