7 Health Questions You're Too Embarrassed to Ask, Answered by Doctors
Sitting down face-to-face with your doctor can be uncomfortable -- maybe you're naked except for one of those paper hospital gowns, and you're about to be poked and prodded in some sensitive areas. It's not exactly the best environment for bringing up your secret, most private, embarrassing questions.
Everyone has those, right?
The fact of the matter is that doctors have seen and heard it all, so we asked a few medical experts embarrassing questions submitted anonymously by Thrillist staffers. Curious if guys' and girls' poops smell differently, or what to do about toe fungus? Wonder no more, DAVE (just kidding, it was totally anonymous).
Adult circumcised man here. My whole life I've had issues with peeing straight. At times it comes out in a spiral or shoots off at nearly 90-degree angles... Is there any method to peeing in a Super Soaker-esque stream?
"Hi, adult circumcised man. If this issue has been occurring your entire life, then this may be due to an anatomical defect such as a hypospadia (the most common birth defect of the penis where there are two or more urethral openings). If your issue is more recent, this can be caused by small scars or blockages within the urethra due to prior STDs or growths called polyps. An exam by your primary care physician or a urologist can diagnose the issue." -- Dr. Alex Foxman, internist at the Beverly Hills Institute
"If you are a man with a urine stream that comes out at an angle or stops and starts, you should visit a urologist. You may have a urethral stricture or a prostate issue that can be treated." -- Dr. Jennifer Haythe, internist and cardiologist at NewYork-Presbyterian
"The reason why the urine doesn't come out straight is because structurally, the urine is being guided at an angle, and that's usually because of some scar tissue. It doesn't represent any serious problem, other than soiling the toilet seat when you're peeing. The only reason to seek medical attention for it would be if the person is finding difficulty emptying their bladder." -- Dr. John Swartzberg, internist and chair of Berkeley Wellness' editorial board
Do guys' and girls' poops really smell differently?
"Interestingly, I did a talk on this a number of years ago. The major chemicals that cause feces to smell are gases produced by bacteria in the stool: hydrogen sulfide, methyl mercaptan, and dimethyl sulfide. Those are really the main gases that cause the fecal smell. Studies have shown that females have more of these molecules per volume than males, which would suggest that females' feces smell more than males'. But males have larger volume of feces in general, so it's probably a wash." -- Dr. Swartzberg
"The smell of poop is due to several factors, including the type of food ingested and how this ingested food is metabolized by the bacteria that live in all of our colons. Some foods may cause the bacteria to produce more methane, causing more gas and sulfur compounds (the smell)." -- Dr. Foxman
Butt pimples: What's the deal, and how can you make them go away?
"Butt pimples, or folliculitis, is caused by bacteria that lives on the skin to infect the hair follicles in the buttock area. This can be made worse if the area is moist. Sometimes sitting on areas that may have a high bacteria count, such as locker rooms or Jacuzzi tubs, can cause this. I suggest washing the area with soapy water during bathing and keeping the area dry throughout the day. If the issue does not resolve, see your primary care physician. Sometimes bacteria such as MRSA can cause this not to resolve, but a treatment is available." -- Dr. Foxman
"Your gluteal region has sweat glands and oil glands, and therefore clogged pores on the skin surface will lead to pimples. Practicing good hygiene and washing with neutral cleansers can help control this problem. If your problem is severe, you may benefit from seeing a dermatologist who can prescribe a medicated cleanser and even topical ointments/creams that could be beneficial." -- Dr. Helen Perakis, reconstructive and cosmetic plastic surgeon
"The only way to make them go away is the same way you would make ingrown hairs go away: Maybe try an exfoliating agent on your buttocks, but the major thing is to wash carefully with soap and water. It's a different problem than the acne you find on your face. The one thing that people who have folliculitis, and it commonly occurs on the butt, is to use chlorhexidine soap. You can buy it over the counter." -- Dr. Swartzberg
"What are the chances you can become pregnant after touching a male partner's genitals and then your own?"
"Unless there is a turkey baster involved, it's pretty much impossible to become pregnant in this fashion." -- Dr. Perakis
"I think it's just about impossible. The semen doesn’t live well outside of the human host, and you would really have to deliver from your finger to the cervix, which would be really tricky to do. I think there are bigger things to worry about, like what else could be in the semen such as herpes simplex or HPV that you might be able to deliver to yourself. If you touch someone's genitals, it is possible to transmit HPV and herpes simplex virus." -- Dr. Swartzberg
"It depends on your definition of 'touching.' If any time semen has contact with the opening to the vagina, there is a possibility of pregnancy, though low. I would be also concerned with STDs such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital warts, or genital herpes, which can also be transmitted by contact." -- Dr. Foxman
My friends all take Adderall recreationally (mainly to stay up late on weekends). At what point should I be concerned about their health?
"At the point you decide to use it. Adderall is a prescription drug for a reason: It has side effects. The most important side effects are the effects on your blood pressure; it raises it, and it can cause rhythm disturbances of your heart. It can also exacerbate anxiety and an agitated state. So there's lots of reasons not to use that unless you need it. If it's mainly to stay up late on the weekends, a better strategy would be to try and get some sleep during the day so you can stay up that night." -- Dr. Swartzberg
"Adderall is indicated for the treatment of diagnosed attention-deficit disorder (ADD). The main ingredient in Adderall is amphetamine, or 'speed.' This is a highly addictive drug which can have serious side effects including elevated blood pressure, heartbeat irregularities, increased risk of brain aneurysms, and higher risk of sudden death. If these risks are worth staying up late at night, than you should see psychiatrist. Any person with half a brain would stick to a cup of coffee or a shot of espresso." -- Dr. Foxman
Is toe fungus dangerous? What's the best way to treat it?
"Despite those lovely TV commercials that depict fungus as scary little green monsters, I would not consider toenail fungus dangerous. Unless you have other serious medical problems, toenail fungus is not deadly -- it is more of a nuisance. There are a variety of topical antifungal creams, nail lacquers, and even oral antifungal pills. On some occasions, the toenail may need to be removed. See your physician and discuss what would be the best way to treat your toenail fungus given your situation." -- Dr. Perakis
"If you have athlete's foot it’s very important to treat it. The over-the-counter antifungal products work; the trick to using them is to use the medication until all the signs and symptoms of the athlete's foot are gone, when all the redness is gone and itchiness is gone. And then use it for at least two to three more weeks after that, because what happens after that when the signs and symptoms go away, people stop, and then it comes back within a few weeks. Practicing good hygiene is also important: Wash in between your toes, dry in between your toes with a different towel each time, or another trick is to [dry your feet] with a hair dryer on low heat." -- Dr. Swartzberg
What are your honest thoughts about smoking marijuana? Can it be done healthfully? And is smoking really any different from vaping?
"Unfortunately, because marijuana has been classified by the US government as a Schedule I narcotic (same class as heroin), very few real studies have been performed. Most information about marijuana comes from the marijuana community and is likely biased. In addition, many strains of marijuana have been bred to produce very high concentrations of THC. The marijuana that is smoked or ingested today is much stronger than several decades before. In fact, today's marijuana is so strong I call it heroi-juana (heroin-marijuana). It can be both psychologically and physically addictive.
"Vaping causes THC mixed in an oil base to be vaporized when heated with the THC and water vapor inhaled. This is likely safer than smoking marijuana since the smoke contains more carcinogens from burning the leaf and buds of the plant. I always caution my patients to not treat marijuana as a simple recreational drug and wait for further studies before jumping on the medicinal bandwagon." -- Dr. Foxman
"This is one of these examples like tobacco and some other products that have been used for a long time, and then we finally study them and find out the long-term consequences. Marijuana is a perfect example of that, but it doesn't reflect a neglect by the medical profession and research scientists; it reflects the government's policy for making it so difficult for the medical profession and scientists to study it. That's why we don't have good studies on it. So we need to know whether it's safe or not -- a doctor can't really answer the question of what the long-term effects are because we really don't know." -- Dr. Swartzberg
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