The 8 Most Embarrassing Health Problems--Fixed
At one time or another, an embarrassing malady is bound to fall on everyone. Although some are more debilitating than others, all are at least conquerable, if not curable, with a combination of diligence, patience, and a doctor's supervision. Here, we explore eight of these conditions:
The Lowdown: Whether the cause is your diet, food caught between your teeth, or a medical condition such as a gastrointestinal disorder, bad breath can be awkward for all parties involved.
The Fix: After eating or drinking something with an exceptionally strong odor such as coffee, onions, or garlic, follow up with lots of water. Good oral hygiene--brushing twice a day, flossing, using mouthwash, visiting your dentist twice a year--is also extremely important. If that's not enough, your dentist may prescribe an antimicrobial mouth rinse, or you may have to check in with your doctor to determine if an underlying medical condition is contributing to your problem.
The Lowdown: The body's natural air-conditioning system, sweat glands release fluid in response to excessive heat, strenuous exercise, and anxiety- or fear-inducing situations. However, people who suffer from hyperhidrosis, because of heredity or disease, sweat even when their bodies are cool and inactive.
The Fix: Antiperspirants containing more than 10 percent ammonium chloride hexahydrate constitute the first line of defense. Treatments using Botox and a procedure called ionphoresis, in which the hands and feet are placed in water while a gentle current of electricity is applied, have shown some success as well.
The Lowdown: A sebaceous follicle becomes clogged with sebum, dead skin cells, tiny hairs, and sometimes bacteria, resulting in an unsightly red or white bump somewhere on the body--often the face.
The Fix: Over-the-counter treatments abound, the most effective among them containing benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. But if pimples are putting a damper on your days, a dermatologist can help you determine a successful combination of therapies, including topical (antimicrobials such as erythromycin and retinoids like tretinoin) and oral medications and phototherapy. Avoid washing the area excessively--you'll only exacerbate the problem--and allow six to eight weeks for the course of treatment to take effect.
The Lowdown: Most common in people with fair skin, blond hair, and blue eyes, rosacea is a skin disease in which blood vessels in the face, neck, ears, scalp, chest, and back swell, producing inflamed red patches of skin, pimples, and nasal bumps.
The Fix: Dermatologists often treat rosacea similarly to how they treat acne, with erythromycin, azelaic acid, benzoyl peroxide, sulfur lotions, and laser and light therapy. Glycolic acid has also shown to be effective when used in combination with oral antibiotics. The best thing you can do is nip the problem in the bud; the longer you let rosacea fester, the harder time you will have fighting it.
The Lowdown: A normal skin cell has a life span of 28 to 30 days, but in a person suffering from psoriasis, skin cells mature and rise to the surface within three to four days, causing the cells to accumulate and form inflamed lesions, mostly on the torso, scalp, knees, and elbows.
The Fix: The array of treatments available (topical medications containing tar, anthralin, tazorac, or steroids; oral medications such as cyclosporine or soriatane; light and laser therapy) may seem overwhelming, and the key is finding the right mix. Since stress can trigger an outbreak, meditation, massage, and yoga are also recommended.
The Lowdown: Factors ranging from irritated tissue surrounding the urinary tract to diabetes to excessive consumption of caffeine or alcohol can cause the bladder to involuntarily contract. This can result in a sudden, urgent need to urinate--and sometimes the uncontrollable excretion of urine.
The Fix: Clinical trials have shown that antispasmodics such as tolterdine and oxybutynin are quite effective. Other therapies include limiting and timing fluid intake as well as strengthening the bladder muscles through Kegel exercises.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
The Lowdown: Researchers are still uncertain about what causes IBS. Some have linked it to abnormal levels of serotonin; others have traced it to a bacterial infection. What is known: One in five Americans, many of whom are women, exhibit symptoms, which include cramping, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea.
The Fix: The course of treatment largely depends on how IBS manifests itself. Among some sufferers, the lower intestine fails to absorb enough water, resulting in diarrhea; with others, the lower intestine takes out too much water, causing constipation. While anti-diarrheal medications are beneficial for the former, fiber supplements are helpful for the latter. Eating smaller meals, keeping well hydrated, and exercising regularly have also been shown to help ease symptoms.
The Lowdown: Fungi akin to those that cause athlete's foot find their way underneath your nails to the nail bed, where they discover all the warmth and moisture they need to thrive. Their gift to you? Thick, brittle, yellow or brownish nails that can become painful and even separate themselves from the nail bed.
The Fix: Getting rid of these stubborn critters is no easy task. Even if you take one of the four prescription oral medications (sporanox, diflucan, fulvicin, lamisil), the likelihood of recurrence is probable, especially if you don't follow through with proper foot hygiene. Daily epsom salt foot soaks are helpful, and keeping your feet clean, cool, and dry is essential. Most important, don't forget to treat all your footwear with an anti-fungal spray.
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