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Dr Duncan

Why be embarrassed - your doctor won't be

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The internet is a great source of information. In the past, we received knowledge by word of mouth, then by the written word and finally by the printed word. I suspect that it was the typewriter that powered up mass communication, but it has been the internet that has sent it global and instant.

So is there any room left for information to be gained by word of mouth in this electronic era? At this point in time I would have to say that the answer is a resounding YES. We still need people who are skilled in specialist areas to be able to interpret and pass on appropriate information tailored to the individual - and health is one such specialist area. For instance, if you type in the word “acne” into Google you will get in excess of 69 million results - and I suspect that at least 68+ million of those may not be wholly reliable - so who do we trust?

According to whichever survey you can trust, somewhere between 63%-85% of the population search the internet for health information, and that about 30% of young people use their mobile phones to do the same thing. Health is big business and everyone is trying to get your attention to either pass on “good health information”, or else they’re trying to sell you something. Most people are looking for information on a specific condition either for themselves or someone important to them and the list of contents usually contains conditions like this:
  • Shingles
  • Haemorrhoids
  • Skin problems
  • Allergies
  • Gallbladder
  • Gout
  • Sleep disorders
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
All of these conditions are fairly “routine” and once the information has been digested then the person concerned will usually arrange an appointment to see a physician armed with some basic ideas about their problem. However, over my years in practice, there have been some conditions that have caused severe embarrassment to the sufferer and its taken huge courage for them to attend and seek help. Yet in all those years I have never actually been embarrassed, and I think that this goes for nearly all of my colleagues. Embarrassment is not a problem that we lie awake at night worrying about - we’re there to help and that’s why we’re doctors! Remember, we’ve spent years dealing with humanity in all its guises, studied it inside and out and every day there is not an orifice that we don’t have to peer into or shine a light into - so trust us ... we’re Doctors!

So here are some of those “agonized over” conditions that may cause sufferers to scour the Internet for self help advice:

Sex

It’s always high up the list on internet searches, and because of mobile phones it appears to be particularly important to the younger generation as well! Two of the major “red faced” questions are:
 
Pregnancy- Despite all the education on the subject, unprotected sex still happens and especially so to teenagers and those in their 20s.  The message I would get across here is that it can take up to 3 days following vaginal sex for conception to actually occur - so you don’t need to panic! There should be plenty of time to make an appointment and see a Doctor, get yourself checked out thoroughly and plan positively for the future.
Herpes- Herpes hopefully will eventually go the way of mumps and measles: in other words, because of the recent vaccination programs against it, herpes should become less and less of a problem. And in a committed relationship, it shouldn’t be a barrier either, but it does present problems where promiscuity is an issue because herpes can be spread from partner to partner. Promiscuity and herpes can not only cause potential physical problems, but also cause emotional and relationship issues as well. So get vaccinated early, do not have unprotected sex on a casual basis and if you want a long term relationship then just be open and honest with each other and discuss the options of appropriate medications with your doctor. Because the less you stress the more chance your immune system will keep herpes under good control anyway.

Body Odours

The perfume industry is one of the most successful industries on the planet - we love to smell nice! So when we don’t, we tend to become embarrassed and retreat from social events which can lead into a spiral of negative events. 
We all have natural “pheromones” that evolved to help us attract a sexual partner - the trouble is that we also have our own microbiome of bacteria that help protect and help balance our bodies, and when these get a little out of balance, then “smelly” bacteria can start to make their presence felt!
 If body odour is a problem, then get a medical check up: people who are overweight and obese will have more skin folds where anti-social bacteria can lurk, and controlled weight loss can solve both issues. 
Vaginal odour suggests that there is an imbalance of bacteria, and a simple lab test can help diagnose that and lead to successful treatment. 
Ears can be smelly which also suggests the presence of pathological germs: these can be diagnosed with a simple swab and then targeted with appropriate antibiotic treatment. 
Breath odour is more complex to resolve and definitely needs professional help - it could be oral, or related to gum disease, or sinus infections: and even gut and digestive imbalance can lead to bad breath.

Most of these issues are not life-threatening, but can lead to unnecessary anxiety or even lead to depression. So whatever your embarrassing problem may be, go along to your doctor and get it checked - I promise you, she or he will have seen or heard it all before!   

Article written by Dr. Duncan Jefferson. More articles here. For more information on health care and private health cover, visit HBF Insurance at www.hbf.com.au.

The content of these articles is not tailored for any particular individual's circumstances. The author does not take into account your physical condition, medical history or any medication you may be taking. Any advice or information provided by the author cannot replace the advice of your health care professional. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent those of HBF unless clearly indicated.

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