As if wearing a thin paper robe and peeing into a cup isn't intimidating enough, what if you have a question for your doctor that makes you blush just thinking about it? "Ask it anyway," advises Dr. Laura Corio, M.D., a New York City-based ob/gyn and author of The Change Before the Change (Bantam Books, 2000).
"Believe me, your doctor has heard it all before. You'll be relieved to get it out in the open and you may be heading off a potentially serious health issue." Read on for eight of the most embarrassing health questions (and possible solutions.)
My hair is falling out in clumps. Am I going bald?
Nearly two thirds of women experience hair loss at some point in their lives. Small comfort when it's your mane that's falling out in clumps or you discover barren patches of fuzz on your pate. "From genetic to hormonal to thyroid to anemia, there are so many reasons for hair loss, you'll need a doctor to help pinpoint them, "Corio says. She recommends seeing a dermatologist first who may then refer you on to another specialist such as an endocrinologist. The good news: Most non-age related hair loss in women is temporary.
It seems like I have the urge to pee every 15 minutes. What's wrong?
Corio says the most likely culprit is a urinary tract infection and a course of antibiotics should do the trick. More seriously, you could have a Neurogenic Bladder, (also known as a spastic or hyperactive bladder) which is chronic condition that requires treatment by a urologist.
Is it normal for my breasts to be uneven? "One foot can be bigger than the other, one arm can be longer than the other, so it's not abnormal for the breasts to be slightly asymmetrical too," says Corio. Size differences can be exacerbated by breast feeding and weight fluctuations. Even though uneven breasts aren't dangerous, they can make you self conscious so if they're really out of whack, you may want to consider cosmetic surgery.I've had zero sex drive lately. How can I get my mojo back? Libido is multifaceted, Corio notes. The first thing to look at is stress levels and how your relationship is going. "I advise my patients to take a vacation with their partner," she says. "If there's still no improvement, go see your gynecologist to eliminate any underlying physical causes, then a sex therapist to work on the emotional and psychological side of things."Is it possible to be allergic to semen? "Some guys are more alkali than others so if you feel a burning or itching upon contact with semen, it could be an allergy," Corio says. If the problem persists try using a condom. A trip the doctor to rule out infection is also a good idea.I'm really dry down there during sex, is there something wrong? Birth control can flatten out hormones and lead to vaginal dryness. Antihistamines and other medications can also dry up secretions, and after menopause, inability to self-lubricate can be the result of thinning and shrinking vaginal tissue. "Try an over-the-counter lubricant and see if that helps," advises Corio. If it doesn't, and you are peri- or post-menopausal, consult with your health care provider about alternatives like topical hormone treatment. The issue could also be emotional; ask your partner to spend more time on foreplay and if that doesn't work, consult with a sex therapist.
I think I have a sexually transmitted disease (STD), but I dread telling my doctor. "You can bet your doctor has heard it all," Corio points out. "Plus she's not there to judge you." If you're too embarrassed to speak to your physician about whether or not you may have an STD or you don't feel like she'll take you seriously, switch docs. STDs are easily treated but the longer they're left unchecked, the more harm they cause. I put a tampon in and forgot about it for more than a week. What should I do? According to Corio, the most important thing to remember in this situation is that the vagina is a closed space. "There's nowhere for it to go so if you can't find it, chances are it fell out on its own." If you've retained a tampon, Corio promises you'll know: It will smell awful. "See a doctor immediately to help remove it and get tested for infection," she advises.My periods smell really bad. Is there anything I can do about that? Many women are hypersensitive to the smell of their own periods and probably don't smell as bad as they think. But if you truly do stink while you're menstruating, make an appointment with your gynecologist towards the end of your period to check things out. "There's a strong possibility you have an infection of some sort that needs to be treated," warns Corio.