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Embarrassing male health problems

By Hugh Wilson
Embarrassing male health problems
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We all suffer from the occasional headache, or dodgy guts, or some sports-related injury.

But then there are those ailments that it's not so easy to joke about in the pub. Men suffer from more than their fair share of embarrassing health problems. Here are a few to look out for, and what you need to know about them.

Seeing blood in the bowl or on the paper after you've been to the toilet can be scary. There's nothing like the sight of claret to push a man's imagination straight to 'worst-case scenario' (we're not used to it, you see).

Fact is, it's probably piles. Piles are caused by constant pressure on the blood vessels inside the anus, and can be brought on by straining on the toilet (especially if you're constipated). Other symptoms include itching, pain, a lump or (yuk) soiled undies.

You'll want to get your piles sorted if only because of those embarrassing skid marks, but see a doctor if the symptoms last more than a week or if they include bleeding, just to be on the safe side. You can help yourself by eating plenty of fruit and vegetables to avoid constipation, not hanging around on the toilet with the newspaper for too long and not straining to empty your bowels.

Snoring is much more common in men and, among 30-35-year-olds, about 20% of men (5% of women) snore regularly. So what's the problem? Well, snoring may be a sign of disturbed sleep, meaning you're tired during the day, and it's also the cause of rows between partners. There's nothing worse than trying to sleep next to a serious snorer.

In some cases snoring is a symptom of sleep apnoea, which leads to frequent waking, very disturbed nights and tired, sleepy days.

But there's a lot you can do to help yourself. Overweight people are more prone to snoring, so losing weight can help. And a doctor can give you a range of self-tests for snoring with the best solutions for a peaceful night.

Fungal toenails
Anyone can get a fungal infection of the toenails, but men are more prone because the fungi responsible often lurks in communal showers and changing rooms (the warm moist conditions make for a perfect breeding ground).

And a fungal infection — though rarely painful — can look pretty bad. The nail can become thicker and yellowish brown in colour, with a crumbly white gunk filling the space between skin and nail.

If you have a minor fungal infection — meaning that it's largely confined to the tip of a nail — the doctor can prescribe anti-fungal nail paint. This has to be prescribed though — you can't buy it over the counter. If the infection is more established, affecting the whole nail and more than one nail, you may need to take a course of pills. These can have side effects, so discuss it with your doctor.

To improve the look of a infected nail — or just to avoid becoming prey to the terrible toenail fungus in the first place — give your toes plenty of air, wear loose fitting shoes, dry your toes thoroughly after a bath or shower, and treat athlete's foot (which can spread to nails) promptly.

The urge to fart during an important meeting or a romantic meal can be embarrassing, but it shouldn't be. Healthy young men break wind 14-25 times a day and women half as often, though women's farts — and this is a fact — smell worse.

And really, farting only became a problem when we started living our lives in enclosed spaces. When humans lived largely outside, farting was neither a major cause of embarrassment nor bad jokes.

In fact, some experts reckon holding farts in is the real threat to health. So when you can, fart. When it's not socially acceptable, make your excuses and go outside. On its own, and with no other symptoms, wind is never serious so relax and get ready to rumble.

Jock itch
Jock itch, also known as sweat rash, is an itchy rash around the groin area of men. It's actually caused by the same fungus that causes athlete's foot, so it's very common in men who play sports.

Jock itch is never serious, but wanting to scratch your groin every 10 seconds can be a problem on a hot date. To avoid it, dry the area well after baths and showers, wear loose, cotton underpants and follow the foot care tips in the fungal nail section to ward off athlete's foot.

Hair loss
First off, you may not be going bald at all. We all lose between 50 and a 100 hairs each day, and many of these are left on the shower cubicle floor after a wash. It may look like a lot, but that doesn't mean it's anything out of the ordinary.

But premature baldness can afflict men (rarely women) in their 20s and 30s. Scientists have discovered two genes that may increase the risk of early baldness in men, and 14% of us carry both genetic variants.

If you are genetically predisposed to early baldness, there's not a lot you can do. But stress can speed it up. So first of all, stop stressing about washing your hair too much, dyeing it or using too much hair spray or gel when you were younger. None of it contributes to hair loss.

There can be little more shocking for a man than finding blood in his semen. But though you do need to get any unusual bleeding checked out, hemospermia (as it's known) in young men is usually nothing to be concerned about.

If you've had less than three episodes, the doctor will probably just tell you to keep an eye on it. If it's considered a chronic condition, which has lasted for more than a month or two, he may refer you to a urologist. Even then, if you're younger than 40 hemospermia is unlikely to be a symptom of a serious condition.

Alcohol dependence
Drinking too much is not something that's easy to talk about, but if you think you've started to become dependent on alcohol the best thing is to see the GP.

Signs that alcohol is becoming too important for you include neglecting other interests, spending more time drinking or recovering from drinking than you used to, and feeling anxious when you haven't had a drink.

Many men don't see a doctor at this point because they think they will have to give up alcohol altogether. But if you have a low level of dependency you will be helped to cut down, rather than made to give up completely.

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User comments
If you are serious,there is one antibiotic, that you can take that will stop you drinking,i can't remember its name,but was given to me while in hospital via intravenus & i was given a course of tablets when i left..But if you have one drink while on them,you will be very sick & throw up..Its given after surgery sometimes,they tell you strictly no alcohol with this particular Antibiotic,its because you keep throwing up,if you do have a drink..
would love to know what a doctor can do for you to reduce your drinking