5 Problems You’re Too Embarrassed to Ask Your Doctor About

By , Category : General Health

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health tipsMost of us have questions about our bodies and not all answers are readily available. In these instances, talking to your doctor is often the best approach. Certain topics, however, are a bit too personal to bring up easily. Having to voice an embarrassing problem aloud or otherwise admit to experiencing can keep you silent even in the face of direct questioning.

As a result, these problems may go unaddressed and leave you in a state of discomfort. Even the most intimate or sensitive problem deserves a proper answer. Let’s look at a few of the most common issues people would only ask their search engine.

1. Why Does My Buttocks Itch?

A recurrent dry itch around the anus is called “puritus ani” and can become a major source of anxiety and discomfort, especially at night. The anal area is really hard to keep clean.

Sweat and other moisture or discharge along with tiny fecal particles can easily become trapped within the crinkly folds of the area’s skin. Once you add in how airless and warm the area is it can be easy to see how the anal skin can become irritated and even inflamed. Normal remedies like creams can actually make the problem worse by prolonging how damp the skin remains.


  •  First, make sure there isn’t a fungal infection, hemorrhoid, or another underlying cause. If there is, treat that first.
  • Wipe gently or use a dabbing motion after a bowel movement.
  • Gently dab at the area with wet tissue after finishing a bowel movement and wiping. Do not use pre-moistened toilet paper since the perfume, alcohol, and preservatives these products contain will only aggravate the problem.
  • Wear loose (ideally cotton) underwear. Avoid tights and similar restrictive clothing.
  • Don’t itch. Scratching will only create a new irritant and further prolong the problem. If you can’t resist, try pinching the skin through your clothing since this will be less damaging.

See Your Doctor If

  • Your anus hurts.
  • There is accompanying discharge or blood.

2. Why Am I Sweating So Much?

Sweating more than usual after exertion is one thing, but finding yourself perspiring when going about everyday activities can be a source of embarrassment, stained shirts, and self-consciousness. The problem is known as hyperhidrosis and comes in two main forms. “Primary focal hyperhidrosis” affects up to three percent of the population and is usually specific in where it affects.

The underarms, groin, head, face, hands, or feet are common sites for the excess sweat but the rest of your body is left unaffected. No one really knows why this happens and the cause is thought to be partly genetic.


  • Use antiperspirant.
  • Speak to you doctor about your medications as some medications can restrict the sweat glands.
  • Iontophoresis is a type of low-level electric treatment that can temporarily stun the sweat glands.
  • In extreme cases, surgery can be used.

See Your Doctor If

  • The sweating is across your whole body.
  • The sweating suddenly gets worse.
  • The sweating develops at age 30 or higher.
  • The sweating is not symmetrical (e.g. if only one underarm experiences it).

3. Why Are My Breasts Different Sizes?

Few women have perfectly identical breasts, but the difference is more pronounced in some than others. Breast asymmetry can result in one breast being a different cup size, when the nipple points in a different direction, or when the breast is a different shape than its partner. The reason your breasts may be different sizes is because breasts are a mix of tissue, fat, and glands.

They can change size and shape as part of natural differences in fat distribution, hormone levels, pregnancy, or breastfeeding. Sometimes there is an underlying difference in how the skeleton is shaped that can cause the discrepancy as well.


  • If the asymmetry is caused by pregnancy or breastfeeding, it may correct with time.
  • If the difference is rooted in how the fat is distributed, a firm bra can help keep things in place.
  • Talk to your doctor to see if a blocked milk duct or infection is the cause.

See Your Doctor If

  • The breast size change is a recent development.
  • There is redness, swelling, or a lump present.
  • The breast continues to grow.

4. Why Do I Pee a Little When I Laugh, Cough, or Sneeze?

This is called “stress incontinence” or “urinary leakage”. When something like laughing, coughing, sneezing, or exercise causes an increase in abdominal pressure it can press in on the bladder. Normally, this isn’t enough to cause leakage but sometimes the urethra is weakened and is less able to keep things in. In other words, your “door” is a bit looser on the hinge and opens just a crack.

The weakness is specifically rooted in either the pelvic floor muscles or in the hammock-like connective tissue between the urethra and lower bladder. Menstruation, menopause, and childbirth can all contribute to muscle weakness in this area, which is why more women have this problem than men.


  • Kegel exercises can strengthen the pelvic floor muscle. Sit still and pretend you are trying to hold in gas or stop yourself from peeing while keeping your legs, buttocks, and abdomen still. Hold the contracted muscle for five seconds, relax, and repeat. One set of Kegels is 10 repetitions and should be done five times a day.
  • Make a note of the times you urinate and when you have a leakage event. If you notice times you are more prone to leaks, try voiding the bladder in advance.
  • A vaginal pessary can be used to put pressure on the urethra and keep it in place.

See Your Doctor If

  • You don’t feel relief after urinating.
  • You find yourself urinating more frequently.
  • You have pain in the vagina, pelvic, lower abdomen, or groin area.
  • There is tissue sticking out of the vagina.

5. Why Do I Have Bad Breath?

Sometimes avoiding garlic, onions, and other smelly foods isn’t enough and brushing and flossing even three times a day doesn’t seem to cut it. Bad breath can be the result of bacteria lingering in your mouth, such as in a cavity or dental abscess. In some cases the culprit might be your tongue, since bacteria can accumulate there in addition to your teeth. If you have gastric reflux or other digestive troubles, the problems could be causing oral symptoms as well. Lastly, a sinus, liver, or kidney infection can also cause some spillover symptoms.


  • Use a tongue scraper once or twice a day, especially at the back.
  • Get checked for cavities, gum disease, and other dental issues.
  • Try antacids or other remedies if you have digestive issues.
  • Avoid strong-scented foods.

See Your Doctor If

  • You have respiratory or urological symptoms.

How to Talk to Your Doctor About Embarrassing Problems

Although the internet can be a good resource, the best option is always your doctor. Your physician is able to take the general information available online and figure out which parts are applicable—or irrelevant—to your individual case. It isn’t always easy to talk about personal or uncomfortable subjects however, so here are some parting tips to help make it easier.

  • If you can’t bring yourself to say it, try writing it out. Alternatively, if the problem is something like urine leakage you can present a journal of your symptom timings and use that to inform them.
  • It can help to remember that topics you’d consider taboo in normal conversations like sex, bowel movements, and odor, are no different to a doctor than talking about an earache or upset stomach.
  • Know that they have heard it before. Your case or question is not going to be the first they’ve seen and won’t be the last. Your doctor won’t be surprised, embarrassed, or think you have a freakish anomaly.

Sources for Today’s Article:
“An Overview of Stress Incontinence,” WebMD web site, http://www.webmd.com/urinary-incontinence-oab/america-asks-11/stress?page=1, last accessed November 10, 2015.
“Anal Itching: Treatments and Diagnoses,” Medical News Today web site, http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/168728.php?page=2, last accessed November 10, 2015.
“Bad Breath Causes, Treatments, and Prevention,” WebMD web site, June 23, 2014; http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/bad-breath.
Dworkin-McDaniel, N., “Embarrassing Questions to Ask Your Doctor,” Lifescript web site, January 27, 2014; http://www.lifescript.com/health/centers/pms/articles/your_12_most_embarrassing_health_questions_answered.aspx.
Griffon, R., “Excessive Sweating: Medical Causes,” WebMD web site, September 7, 2011; http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/features/is-your-excessive-sweating-caused-by-a-medical-problem.
Hobson, S., “I Pee a Little When I’m Laughing, Coughing or Sneezing; Is That Normal?” Women’s Healthcare Associates web site, March 13, 2013; http://www.whallc.com/wellness-and-education/wellness-journal/susan-hobson/2013/03/14/I_pee_a_little_when_I_m_laughing_coughing_or_sneezing_is_that_normal.aspx.
Lopez, A., “How to Talk To Your Doctor About Embarrassing Questions – Healthcare Basics,” Sharecare web site, https://www.sharecare.com/health/health-care-basics/article/how-to-talk-to-your-doctor-about-embarrassing-health-questions, last accessed November 10, 2015.
Scheve, T., “10 Embarrassing Problems You Don’t Want to Discuss with Your Doctor,” HowStuffWorks web site, February 14, 2012; http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/preventive-care/10-embarrassing-problems.htm#page=0.
Stearn, M., “Anal Itching (itchy Bottom),” EmbarrassingProblems.com, April 4, 2012; http://www.embarrassingproblems.com/problem/anal-itching.
“What Are the Symptoms of Bladder Prolapse?” Urology Care Foundation web site, http://www.urologyhealth.org/urologic-conditions/bladder-prolapse-(cystocele)/symptoms, last accessed November 10, 2015.


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Dr. Victor Marchione, MD

About the Author, Browse Victor's Articles

Victor Marchione, MD received his Bachelor of Science Degree in 1973 and his Medical Degree from the University of Messina in 1981. He has been licensed and practicing medicine in New York and New Jersey for over 20 years. Dr. Marchione is a respected leader in the field of smoking cessation and pulmonary medicine. He has been featured on ABC News and World Report, CBS Evening News and the NBC Today Show and is the editor of the popular The... Read Full Bio »