“There is nothing to be embarrassed about, they’ve seen it all before.”
However much we hear this and know it’s true, many of us will admit to still getting a bit shy when it comes to speaking to our doctor about what we consider “embarrassing” issues.
Sexual health, problems ‘down there’ and issues around going to the loo are often high up the list of things people don’t want to tell a stranger about – which can mean they suffer in silence for long periods of time.
Or sometimes, we turn to Dr Google instead – which is rarely a good idea as it often throws up incorrect and worrying results.
And the number of people looking online rather than visiting their GP has increased since the beginning of the Covid pandemic.
So one doctor has come to the rescue to answer some of the most common ’embarrassing’ questions that people ask the search engine – giving professional advice on what to do next.
Stephanie Taylor, health and wellbeing expert and founder of StressNoMore, tells Mirror Online: “The sheer number of people in the UK Googling these health concerns every month just goes to show how common they are so there’s no need to be embarrassed.
“Most issues have quick fixes and doing something about it can get you back to feeling your best, faster.
“While Googling health concerns is an important step in understanding your health status, Google doesn’t know you as an individual or your medical history.
“If you have a health concern and are unsure what to do, always consult your GP or another health professional.
“Remember, nothing is too embarrassing to share.”
Here are her answers to the Top 10 Googled questions…
How to treat thrush
Of the 10 most-asked questions in the UK over the past year, thrush, a common yeast infection, takes the top spot being searched by over 33,000 people in the UK every month.
Thrush, despite usually being harmless, is still a taboo subject meaning sufferers can be embarrassed to seek medical help. It’s also wrongly thought of as a women’s problem and is caused by poor hygiene.
In reality, it can affect anyone at any point in their lives.
Symptoms of thrush include irritation, redness and discharge in the sexual organs, as well as in the armpits, groin and between the fingers.
Thrush can usually be easily treated with anti-fungal medicine (a tablet or cream).
Even so, the NHS recommends you visit your GP or sexual health clinic to rule out other more serious infections.
How to treat acne
In second place is “how to treat acne”, searched by an average of 18,000 people each month.
Acne is a common skin condition causing spots, redness and irritation on the face, back and chest and mostly affects teenagers and young adults.
While it cannot be cured, mild acne can be treated with a range of self-help techniques and skincare products such as those with salicylic acid to exfoliate the skin and keep pores clear, but for more severe cases, antibiotics and stronger creams may be prescribed.
Always avoid washing your face too much if you have acne as this encourages more oil production in the skin and use lukewarm water when you do.
If water is too hot it will also stimulate oil production.
How to remove warts
Wart removal is the third most-Googled embarrassing health question, searched by almost 15,000 people each month.
Warts are small lumps on the skin caused by a viral infection and are spread through skin-to-skin contact or contaminated surfaces, similar to verrucas.
Warts are commonly found on the feet, hands, knees and fingers and cause no harm, but they can be seen as embarrassing or unsightly by some.
Studies suggest that warts usually go on their own within a year, but there are options for those that can’t wait.
You can purchase salicylic acid, which is inexpensive and has no known side effects, to apply to the wart and file the area.
After all, it’s essentially built up dead skin.
How to treat piles
Piles, also known as haemorrhoids, are lumps that form inside and around your anus.
They can be a side effect of constipation, pushing to hard to excrete or even pregnancy.
Nationally, piles treatments are Googled over 12,000 times a month.
Piles can be painful, but pharmacists will be able to provide creams and painkillers to relieve discomfort.
Lifestyle changes such as healthy eating, proper hygiene and exercise can also help treat and prevent piles reoccurring.
What causes constipation?
With nearly 10,000 searches a month, constipation comes in 5th place.
There are some signs you should look for initially that may suggest you are suffering constipation.
If you haven’t pooed three times in the last week, and when you have it’s usually very hard/dry and difficult to pass, you’re probably experiencing this health concern.
Causes are varied and mostly normal day-to-day things that may have just slipped your mind.
Often, it’s just a lack of fibre and can be solved by eating more fruit, vegetables and cereals.
If you’re dehydrated or not active enough, this can lead to constipation.
Aside from conventional causes, constipation can be a side effect of some medications and sadly those who are suffering some mental health issues, like stress or anxiety, can find themselves experiencing constipation.
If you suffer from chronic constipation and are in pain, see your GP as soon as possible.
What causes night sweats?
Sixth place is taken by those wondering why we suffer from night sweats, with over 5000 monthly searches for this health-related concern.
More often than not, night sweats are not sinister.
The NHS recommends only seeing a GP if they are severe and come with other side effects, like having a temperature or diarrhoea.
Sometimes night sweats are caused by external factors, like being a side effect of medication or drug and alcohol abuse.
Other symptoms outside of our control include menopause, low blood sugar or hyperhidrosis (a condition that causes excess sweat).
If you suffer from night sweats, wear lose clothing to bed in a breathable fabric and try to exercise in the day, so you have perspired sufficiently before bed.
A calming routine before you go to bed can also help to reduce your stress levels and the likelihood of experience a sweat attack in the night – have a bath (but not too warm), read a book or practice mindfulness.
How to stop farting
This question is searched nearly 3,000 times a month in the UK, but people ought not to worry so much as flatulence is completely normal, even a healthy part of the digestive process.
Most people fart between 14 and 23 times a day, so frequent flatulence is more common than you think, but if you want to prevent it there are ways.
First and foremost, you can cut out gas-inducing foods and drinks like lactose and complex fibres, or fizzy beverages.
This should cut down any excess wind. If this doesn’t help, there may be an intolerance you aren’t aware of that could be causing your bowels distress, or you could be suffering from IBS, so it’s best to see a GP.
How to get rid of bad breath
With nearly 3000 monthly searches, many people in the UK are concerned with the smell of their breath.
Mostly this is caused by what you eat and can be fixed easily by improving your diet and dental hygiene.
Brushing your teeth twice a day for over two minutes, flossing and using mouthwash is the perfect way to have great oral hygiene.
Avoid strong scented foods or carry sugar free gum to combat concerns.
More severely, smoking and crash dieting can give you bad breath (as well as a whole other host of health issues).
If you’re a non-smoker with a healthy diet and dental routine, but your bad breath persists, speak to your dentist or GP.
How much hair loss is normal?
Losing hair in general is normal, on average we lose between 50 and 100 hairs daily without even noticing.
However, some people notice a significant loss, and this can be hard to understand, outside of illness.
Most people who suffer balding or hair thinning inherit this trait, or others find it happens in times of extreme stress.
If you notice an abnormal amount of hair loss, see your GP.
This could be quickly developing patches of baldness or losing hair in clumps in the shower or when brushing.
Why do I pee when I cough?
Lastly, peeing while coughing takes 10th place in the UK’s most Googled health concerns.
This can be a normal day-to-day occurrence for many people but it’s not something you have to live with.
If you have a weak pelvic floor and suffer from stress incontinence, sneezing, coughing, laughing, running and heavy lifting can all be triggers for bladder leakage.
There are high risk groups for bladder weakness, including the elderly, being obese or having a smoking addiction.
Postpartum women are also likely to experience some kind of incontinence.
To treat stress incontinence, there are certain lifestyle changes you can make, like avoiding alcohol and caffeinated drinks, losing excess weight, and practicing Kegel exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor.
You can start by doing manual Kegel exercises, but for quicker and longer-lasting results, try an electronic pelvic toning device.