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Don't Be Afraid to Tell Your Doctor About These Symptoms

By

Elizabeth Beasley

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Couple with doctor

Squash a spider? No problem. Watch a horror movie? Piece of cake. Talk to your doctor about that itch in your nether regions? Eeeek! 

Many of life’s most universal experiences are awkward to talk about. But we’re mustering the courage to share a few tips on how to mention the unmentionable to your doctor and describe a few of those symptoms that might make you squirm.

When it comes to bathroom talk, almost nothing you say will be shocking. 

If going No. 1 or No. 2 doesn’t rank on the top of your list of favorite things to talk about, don’t worry: Doctors have seen and heard it all (often literally). Symptoms like black stool, bloody diarrhea, brown urine, and flatulence may be difficult to discuss, but they aren’t gross to healthcare providers. In fact, symptoms like these can provide valuable clues that could help them solve a more complex health issue. 

Remember to keep your conversation simple and clear. Color, shape, odor and frequency are useful ways to describe bowel problems. It may also be easier to write down a description of your symptoms. That will prompt your doctor to ask questions that will help you better explain what you’re experiencing.

Don’t shy away from a ‘down there’ over share. 

Now that we’re getting to the bottom of things, let’s chat about problems that show up you-know-where. Issues related to your reproductive organs can be physically uncomfortable—and even more uncomfortable to discuss. Relax! Once again, your doctor has seen it all before. Many of these symptoms are fairly common and can be easily treated. Others could be signs of bigger health problems, so it’s not worth keeping quiet. Bleeding nipples, green vaginal discharge, enlarged testicles and a bent penis: All made our list of common symptoms that are worth a visit to your doctor.

Talking about these topics after you’ve undressed for your exam can make your experience even more unnerving. It’s completely OK to tell your doctor you’d prefer to discuss your problem before you disrobe.

Shed some light between the sheets. 

Talking about what happens behind the bedroom door makes a lot of people blush, but you have to remember sex is an important part of your overall health—and that’s the only lens through which your doctor will view your symptoms. Any pain or physical discomfort related to sexual function is definitely worth a discussion. Painful intercourse, bleeding after sex, or any issues that occur before, during or after the act could be indicators of other health problems. This is another case where writing down your symptoms might be easier than a face-to-face discussion. If talking about sex-related issues with your doctor still feels like a no-no, you could email a note ahead of time that will encourage him or her to initiate the discussion. Also, don’t feel like you can only discuss symptoms with your doctor. You may feel more comfortable talking with a nurse or physician’s assistant first. Then, let them relay the symptoms to your doctor for you.

Once more, with feeling. 

Emotional symptoms like depression, aggression, irritability, and mood swings may not be as gross, but they still can be hard to talk about with your doctor. The fact is these symptoms are more common than you’d think and could be the result of stress, medication side effects, or chronic illness. A tiny tweak might make a huge improvement—but you won’t know until you ask.

And asking can be difficult. One way to break the ice is to be up front about your uneasiness. Start the conversation by saying “This is embarrassing for me to talk about” or “I feel weird telling you this, but I need some help.” An approach like this will cue your doctor to listen carefully and ask questions that will make the conversation easier for you. 

Whew! We made it through those awkward moments. Now, remember, your doctor is there to treat every part of your body, from your brain to your bum. So don’t shy away from sharing your symptoms—all of your symptoms—in whatever way feels most comfortable.

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Was this helpful? (41)
Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Nov 1, 2016

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