From time to time, everyone might find themselves with a medical question they're a little uncomfortable asking. Here, Dr. Melissa Lem shares her responses to some medical questions she's heard from patients who felt a little embarrassed.
"I'm constantly waxing and tweezing my chin and upper lip. I thought only men were supposed to have beards. What's up?"
First things first: Society tells us women should be facial hair-free except for their eyebrows and eyelashes, but visible facial hair can be completely normal in Mediterranean, Central Asian and dark-haired Caucasian women. That said, truly excessive male-pattern hair growth, or hirsutism, affects one in 10 women. It's caused by either too much male hormone or androgens, or hair follicles being too sensitive to them.
If you notice you have a lot more unwanted hair than your mom or sisters, pay a visit to your doctor. Otherwise, commercial hair removal techniques like waxing or lasering can be very effective.
"My skin "down there" is always red and itchy. How can I fix it?"
This sounds like a case of jock itch, which shows up as an itchy, red and flaky rash over your nether regions. Basically, that little crease where your leg joins your abdomen is like a tropical swamp that's warm, moist and teeming with yeast that can overgrow and cause infections. Now remember that jock itch isn't just for jocks -- anyone can get it! So shower frequently, avoid tight underwear, wash those gym clothes regularly and see a doctor if your rash isn't clearing up.
"I have so much ear wax that I have trouble hearing sometimes (especially my husband!) Why?"
Although ear wax can be annoying, it's a hero when it comes to the health of your ear canal. Ear wax, or cerumen, traps baddies like bacteria, fungus and dirt, then slowly moves toward and out of your ear opening at the same speed that your fingernails grow.
If you do have a cerumen conundrum, resist the urge to dig around with cotton swabs, because this can pack wax deep into your ears. Instead, try instilling a few drops of mineral or olive oil, then tilting your head in the shower and letting the water run out again after a few minutes for a better clean.
"I can't pee if there's anyone within five feet of me in a public washroom. What's wrong with me?"
Bashful bladder, also known as pee-phobia or shy bladder, affects a whopping 17 million North Americans. When the brain perceives danger -- like dirty facilities or feeling rushed -- the sphincter muscle at the opening of your bladder can clamp down, preventing free flow despite your best efforts. Unfortunately, this most commonly happens to men when they're side by side with others in a public washroom, which can also be the most embarrassing place!
To treat bashful bladder, practice peeing with a pee buddy, who moves progressively closer to you each time you visit the loo. Otherwise, use a stall or do math problems in your head to distract yourself.
"I am so self conscious about my man boobs that I can't even shower at the gym. What can I do?"
There are actually two types of man boobs, or gynecomastia, though they often look the same: pseudo-gynecomastia, caused by fat deposits from being overweight, and true gynecomastia--enlarged breast tissue caused by an excess of estrogen over male hormone.
The first kind can be treated with weight loss, or in extreme cases, liposuction. But be sure to see your doctor for a medication review and screening tests if you notice an increase in your bust line despite maintaining a healthy weight. Also, avoid using hygiene products with lavender and tea tree oil, because studies have linked them to increased breast tissue growth.