Sometimes, bodies are just weird. They do weird things; they look, smell and sound weird, as much as everyone might try to hide it. But when does that weirdness call for concern?
We talked with Bruce Campbell, MD, Chair of Executive Health at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center, to shed some light on the strange men’s health questions you might be too embarrassed to ask your doctor — but shouldn’t be.
1. What can I do about erectile dysfunction?
If erectile dysfunction (ED) disrupts your sex life, your knee-jerk reaction may be to rush-order a script for that blue pill. But there’s more to the story, Dr. Campbell explained. First and foremost, you might not need it.
“Studies have shown that if a man loses weight, regularly exercises and follows a low-saturated-fat Mediterranean diet, he can improve his ED,” said Dr. Campbell.
Second, ED can signal something more serious.
“Erectile dysfunction can be the first sign of underlying cardiovascular disease,” Dr. Campbell noted. “Studies have shown that in guys under 55 who report ED, there is a significant risk for heart attack or stroke three to five years after they first report it. That’s why it’s so critical to see a doctor to get their blood pressure, fasting blood sugar, and cholesterol checked and treat any risk factors, if necessary.”
2. What should I do if I have pain in the testes?
Pain, lumps or swelling in the testes don’t always mean cancer, as guys might mistakenly assume. Regardless of the cause, however, you should have it checked out immediately.
“If a guy experiences sudden pain or swelling after participating in a weekend warrior or sports activity, he could have a testicular torsion, which is a medical emergency and should be seen at the ER immediately,” Dr. Campbell said, adding that doctors usually do an ultrasound to diagnose the issue. “Or it could be epididymitis, which is inflammation that can be treated with antibiotics and antiinflammatory medications.”
3. Can I take anything to prevent hair loss?
Two out of every three American men experience some level of hair loss by the age of 35 — and by the age of 50, that figure jumps to 85 percent. So, what’s a man to do?
Topical treatments, pills and hair transplants are options, depending on your needs and budget, but it’s best to see a doctor to discuss.
4. Why am I sweating through my shirt every day?
“With excessive armpit sweating, it’s worth trying the different over-the-counter antiperspirants to see if they’re helpful, and minimizing stressful triggers,” Dr. Campbell suggested, adding that prescription antiperspirants might help, too.
But if you wake up drenched from constant night sweats and experience rapid weight loss, fever or chills, trouble could be afoot. Be sure to call a doctor if you experience these symptoms.
5. Should I be worried if I see blood in the toilet bowl?
If you’ve got rectal bleeding, it’s time to schedule an appointment.
“Often, it’s just a hemorrhoid, and frequently a patient will be able to tell by feeling a lump, experiencing some discomfort during bowel movements and rectal itching, but you never want to just assume that it is due to a hemorrhoid,” said Dr. Campbell. “The big concern is colorectal cancer, which is the second leading cause of cancer death in men, so it’s important not to ignore that symptom.” The same goes for bloody urine.
“If there’s pain, it could be a kidney stone or a urinary tract infection, and if there’s no pain, that also requires further evaluation to look at the entire urologic tract, from the kidneys to the bladder,” he said.
6. Should I take testosterone supplements?
Testosterone starts to decline in the mid-30s, and this can cause a range of issues such as sexual dysfunction, hair loss, weight gain and lack of energy. But supplements aren’t always the answer, Dr. Campbell warned.
“I have this conversation several times a month with patients, because there’s a lot of misleading information on the internet,” he said. “Many men can actually start to feel better if they just take better care of themselves through better eating, exercise, stress management and less alcohol consumption. For those who need testosterone replacements, they should be actively monitored by a health care provider.”
7. Why are you measuring my belly?
“Some men get embarrassed when we measure their waist circumference,” Dr. Campbell said. “But, it’s a great clinical predictor of future cardiovascular disease: A measurement over 40 inches at the level of the belly button is considered obese.”
That’s because when men gain extra weight, it often gathers in their midsection, and belly fat produces inflammatory proteins and hormones which cause diabetes and heart disease, he added.
8. Why is it so itchy down there?
“Jock itch is very common in men, and there are effective antifungal treatments that guys can buy over the counter,” Dr. Campbell said. “Also, ensure good hygiene, and change into clean, dry clothing, particularly after working out.”
9. I have a problem passing gas. Is there something wrong?
Typically, there’s nothing to be worried about here, unless you have excessive gas paired with other symptoms such as weight loss, diarrhea, bloody stools or abdominal pain. If you do, it could be more than just hot air, so see a doctor.
10. What’s with this bad breath, even though I brush regularly?
“Bad breath is typically notable first thing in the morning when we wake up with dry mouths and the bacteria has had the opportunity to settle in,” said Dr. Campbell. “In addition to having good dental hygiene, it’s also important to remain well hydrated, follow a good diet and avoid foods such as garlic, onion, coffee and alcohol.”
One of the biggest challenges doctors have is getting their patients to be candid about their concerns. Still, when your health is at stake, the doctor’s office is no place to be shy.
“It’s very likely that many men are experiencing the same thing that you are, and more importantly, ignoring your concern could lead to a poor health outcome,” noted Dr. Campbell.
Experiencing one of these men’s health issues or have a question not on here? Find a doctor near you to talk about the weird stuff.