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Updated 15 May 2015

Six ways to approach your doctor with an embarrassing problem

Do you have an embarrassing problem, but you are afraid that your doctor might think less of you? Here are some tips on how to approach your doctor with uneasy complaints.

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Many patients have embarrassing health problems, often serious enough to warrant a trip to the doctor, but when they do go, they'll often hide the truth of their awkward ailment. The real reason why patients visit a doctor is often disguised as something “more acceptable” like headaches, nausea and a sore back. It takes a skilled doctor to realise that the sore throat could be linked to a sexually transmitted disease. But your doctor may easily overlook this and miss what’s really wrong with you.

That’s why it’s so important to be completely honest with your doctor. Remember, after 7 years of training and many years in practice, they've really seen it all and regard all complaints, symptoms and diseases – whether it’s on the top of your penis or embedded in your ear – from a rational and scientific point of view.

Here is a list of the most common embarrassing health problems:

·  Haemorrhoids

·  Unsightly rash on your bottom

·  Urinating or farting during sex

·  Excessive sweating

·  Persistent bad breath

·  Nagging itch in a spot that's just not socially acceptable to scratch

·  A deep-seated, psychological urge to do something you'd be ashamed of

For your doctor to effectively treat you, he or she needs a detailed history and needs to do a full examination. A doctor can only act on the information you give him.

How to approach the situation

When visiting your doctor with a potential “embarrassing” problem, try the following tips:

1. Write down your health problems before entering the consultation room. This will ensure you stay focused on the problems at hand. Do not leave until your doctor has addressed all your problems.

2. If your doctor asks what he can help you with, start with what bothers you most. Your doctor will then ask all relevant questions surrounding that problem. He will then ask if anything else is the matter. If he does not ask, insist on telling him anyway.

3. Don’t be embarrassed to use the words penis and vagina. Often, using other words like “pee-pee” or “cookie” might make your doctor feel more uncomfortable than you. Remember – your doctor is a scientist, and using the correct anatomical words will not embarrass him.

4. If you need a vagina or penis examination, your doctor will offer that a chaperone (like a nursing sister) be present during the examination. This is to make you feel more comfortable. You can also bring along someone you trust to the appointment.

5. Don’t jump around between doctors with embarrassing problems. Thinking it might be easier to visit a GP you’ve never seen before for an embarrassing problem often creates a bigger problem.  Remember, your regular GP knows your medical history and is in the best position to make an accurate diagnosis.

6. Although this might sound strange, do not spray perfume or put any powders or cream on your vagina or penis before an examination. This may interfere with test results if urine testing needs to be done. 

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Image: Woman hiding her face from Shutterstock

Dr. Owen J. Wiese is Health24's resident doctor. After graduating from Stellenbosch University with additional qualifications in biochemistry and physiology he developed a keen interest in providing medical information through the media.

 
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