13 April 2016 09:13:37

Embarrassing health issues - don't suffer needlessly!

Nobody wants to bother their doctor needlessly, but sometimes it's embarrassment that stops us seeking help. So how can you deal with embarrassing niggles on your own - and when do you need to take the plunge and see a doctor?

Nobody wants to bother their doctor needlessly, but sometimes it's embarrassment that stops us seeking help. So how can you deal with embarrassing niggles on your own - and when do you need to take the plunge and see a doctor?

Dandruff is often caused by a fungal infection of the scalp. Try ketoconazole shampoo from your pharmacist - twice a week for two to four weeks, then every one to two weeks to stop it coming back. Wind may be due to your diet - some veg and fibre are notorious. But if you have other symptoms too, see your doctor.

If you have bad breath, your first port of call should probably be your dentist - gum disease and tooth decay are the most common causes. Smoking, crash dieting or eating garlic, onions and spicy food can also be to blame. But if these are ruled out and the problem persists, see your doctor - reflux (linked with heartburn), sinus inflammation or lung problems are occasionally at the root.

It can be tempting to ignore manky feet, and keep them covered up with socks and shoes. In fact, many foot problems are easily sorted without seeing your GP. Athlete's foot causes an itchy, scaly rash and often cracking of the skin between the toes. (link to http://patient.info/health/athletes-foot-tinea-pedis) If left untreated, it can spread to the whole sole of your foot. Caused by a fungus, it loves the warm, moist areas between the toes. Antifungal cream from your pharmacist, along with regular washing and thorough drying; changing your shoes every two to three days; not wearing damp shoes; changing socks daily; and wearing flip-flops or sandals in communal changing rooms will help stop it coming back.

Fungal nail infections can make your nails thick, crumbly and discoloured. It's not serious but can be difficult to get rid of. Topical lacquer to paint on your nails may help, but takes months. Otherwise, a three- to six-month course of tablets should sort it.

Verrucas are warts on your foot - unlike warts, they can be very painful because they get pressed into the sensitive flesh. They're not pretty but they don't do any harm and they've very common - about one in 10 people have them at any time. They're easily caught in communal changing rooms - wear flip flops to reduce the risk. They may not need treatment if they're small - but topical salicylic acid treatment (from your pharmacy) or freezing treatment called cryotherapy (speak to your GP) usually works.

Piles are small swellings inside and around your back passage, caused by swollen veins (a bit like varicose veins of your bottom!). They can cause pain, a mucous discharge, irritation and itching around your bottom, along with a feeling of fullness. But the most common symptom is bright blood on the paper when you wipe or in the pan. It's worth seeing your doctor if you've never had this before, because just occasionally a tumour in the bottom can cause similar symptoms. If you get dark blood mixed in with your poo, or black, tarry poo, you should always see your doctor. Along with tummy pain, being off your food, losing weight for no reason and a sudden change in your bowel habit, this can be a sign of cancer or bleeding in the bowel.

Lots of us imagine everyone else is having more fun in the bedroom than we are - but they probably aren't! It's not uncommon to go off sex if you're tired or stressed. But sometimes there is a treatable cause. For instance, after the menopause, vaginal dryness is very common - if this makes relations painful, you're likely to be subconsciously wary. And male performance problems also become much more common with age. They can be a warning sign of type 2 diabetes or a side effect of lots of medication, especially those used for high blood pressure. Don't be embarrassed to speak to your GP - there may be more help available than you thought.

Finally, most of us feel stressed at times, but don't ignore the warning symptoms of depression . If you've regularly been feeling down, depressed or hopeless, or don't enjoy things you usually look forward to, you could be depressed. Help is at hand - but you need to ask for it.

With thanks to 'My Weekly' magazine where this article was originally published .

Dr Sarah is unable to provide medical advice or respond directly to questions concerning your health. If you have health concerns we recommend contacting your GP.