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September 2019

4 Awkward Health Problems You Should Tell Your Doctor About

Some things are just easier to talk about with your sister or closest girlfriend. Sensitive health problems, from vaginal complaints to hemorrhoids, may fall into this category.

Female healthcare provider talking with woman in exam room

If you feel a bit shy about bringing up these subjects with your healthcare provider, that’s OK. But do so anyway. Remember that talking about such things is all in a day’s work for him or her.

Often, your symptoms may be caused by a condition that could benefit from treatment. Here are four common health issues you should discuss with your provider (even if you’d rather not).

Topic 1. Vaginal discharge

It’s normal to have clear to white vaginal discharge. But let your provider know if you notice a change in the color, amount, or consistency.

One possible cause is a yeast infection, which may lead to a cottage cheese-like discharge, along with genital itching and burning. Three-fourths of all women will have a yeast infection at some point in their life. If that’s the source of your problem, it can be treated with antifungal medication.

But other genital infections can lead to similar symptoms. The only way to know for sure what you’re dealing with is to see your healthcare provider.

Topic 2. Genital odor

A certain amount of vaginal odor is to be expected. But tell your provider if you notice an odor that’s strong or different from usual. You could have an infection, and trying to cover up the smell by douching may only make things worse.

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is the most common vaginal infection in women ages 15 to 44. It may cause a strong “fishy” odor, along with increased vaginal discharge and a burning sensation when urinating.

Several other infections can resemble BV, so don’t try to self-diagnose. If it turns out that you have BV, your healthcare provider can prescribe an antibiotic.

Topic 3. Painful urination

Another possible cause of pain or burning during urination is a urinary tract infection (UTI). If you have a UTI, you may feel a strong, frequent urge to urinate or pressure in your lower belly. Your urine may smell bad or look milky, cloudy, or blood-tinged.

If you see blood in your urine, tell your provider right away. Although it may just be from a UTI, it could have other, more serious causes.

A UTI can be treated with antibiotics. Getting treatment is important, because an untreated infection may spread to, and damage, your kidneys.

Topic 4. Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in the anus or lower rectum area. They are common in pregnant women. If you have hemorrhoids, you may see bright red blood in your stool or in the toilet after a bowel movement. You may also feel anal itching or discomfort, and sometimes the vein may even bulge out.

Get your symptoms evaluated by a healthcare provider. Other conditions, including cancer, can also cause blood in your stool.

Hemorrhoids can often be relieved by simple lifestyle measures, such as eating more fiber. But if that isn’t enough, your provider may perform a procedure to shrink the swollen tissue. 

Online Medical Reviewer: McDonough, Brian, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 4/1/2019
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