We all have those niggling little questions. The ones we’re too embarrassed to ask our doctor. Often these little worries could be easily put to rest with a simple consultation. In other cases, they may be a cause for concern and require further investigation. Certainly, it is never a good idea to delay addressing a health issue that may need treatment!
To help you out, here are the answers to the most common questions people are too embarrassed to ask their doctor, and some tips on when you should seek formal medical advice.
1. Why am I suddenly more flatulent than usual?
If you’ve suddenly noticed that you seem to be farting more than usual, this could be a sign of one of several things. This may indicate IBS, particularly if accompanied by diarrhoea, constipation or cramps. If these symptoms persist it is a good idea to consult with your doctor. On the other hand, increase in farting could be due to entirely benign, non-medical reasons, such as a change in diet. Increased fibre or legumes in the diet could cause more flatulence, as could a mildly upset intestine due to unhealthy or greasy meals.
2. Why are my breasts sore and lumpy?
It is very common for women to get sore and/or lumpy breasts around the time of their period. This is caused by the breasts retaining extra fluid as part of the menstrual cycle, making the breast tissue feel lumpier and tender. This can also occur due to hormonal changes caused by birth control. In either case, this is not a cause for concern and this does not require treatment. On the other hand, if you feel any unusual, solid lumps this is something you should bring to your GP’s attention and they’ll be able to tell you if it may be a sign of something more serious. Get familiar with your breasts and how they feel normally through doing regular self-checks. That way you’ll be able to immediately notice any unusual lumps.
3. Why is my stool an unusual colour?
Have you noticed your stool is a funny colour but are too embarrassed to ask your doctor why? It is completely normal for faeces to vary in colour between different shades of brown and even green. Green stools may occur after eating a large number of leafy greens, supplements, or food colouring. Yellow-green stools may be caused by bile in the stomach due to a tummy upset. You may also notice a little blood when you wipe, but this is not necessarily a cause for alarm. There can be a number of causes for rectal bleeding and even intestinal bleeding, and not all are serious. More mild explanations include ulcers, haemorrhoids, or polyps. Blood in the stool, particularly if it is more than a little blood and occurs regularly or often may indicate a more serious condition and this is something you show ask your doctor about without delay. Persistent dark green stools can also indicate stress and should be addressed with a medical consultation.
4. Does my breath smell or is it normal?
Bad breath is reasonably common, and can it be caused by a range of things. It can also be something that it is hard to spot in yourself. If you want to check whether your breath smells, lick the inside of your wrist, let it dry for a minute or so, and then smell it. If you do have bad breath, this could be caused by a range of factors, from the food you eat or poor dental hygiene to medication or smoking. Consistent bad breath is classified within in the medical community as a condition called halitosis and may be a sign of conditions requiring treatment such us periodontal disease, or sinus, mouth, throat and gastro-esophageal conditions. In limited cases it is a symptom of diseases such as kidney disease or diabetes. If you have eliminated the more benign causes and your bad breath continues, you should consult with your GP or dentist.
5. Do I have an STI?
It is estimated that a large number of people have undiagnosed STI’s. Women, in particular, suffer from sexual health issues: nearly half of all women in the UK have poor sexual health, according to new research. Although STI’s particularly chlamydia and gonorrhoea are relatively common in both men and women, stigma often prevents people from seeking testing and treatment. This can be a big mistake, as most of these conditions are easily treatable if caught early but can develop into serious problems if left untreated. Symptoms of chlamydia include pain or burning during urination, during sex and lower belly pain. However, in over half of all cases, chlamydia is completely asymptomatic, so the only way to know whether you have it is to get an STI screening. If you’re too embarrassed to ask your regular GP, the Belfast Better 2 Know clinic offers discreet testing and appointments can be booked online.