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Uncomfortable about bringing some health issues to the attention of your general physician? Particularly if these are not life-threatening?

Are you tempted to wait it out? You’re not alone. But delaying treatment can result in a small issue snowballing into something bigger, requiring more medication or prolonging recovery time.

Here are some common concerns and expert advice on how to deal with them.

Irritable bowel syndrome

You’re going about your day and suddenly you begin suffering from stomach cramps. Symptoms such as recurrent abdominal pain, bloating, followed by both diarrhoea and constipation are characteristic of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This could leave you feeling bewildered, often dependent on the need to take frequent bathroom breaks and unable to travel for fear of an attack.

“IBS is caused by numerous factors, including food intolerance, hormonal changes, bacterial growth and lifestyle changes," says Deepak Kulkarni, consultant surgeon and endoscopist at the Apollo Clinic in Pune.

Most sufferers tend to think that stress is the main cause, but Dr Kulkarni says it only makes the condition worse. There is no specific test to diagnose IBS. “A diagnosis will be based on an examination of the patient’s symptoms, an evaluation of whether the passing of stools has become more frequent and whether it relieves discomfort," he says.

Fixes: There are steps you can take to guard against IBS. “Eating breakfast every morning, and replacing three big meals with five-six smaller meals spread through the day will help," says Dr Kulkarni. “Avoid consuming insoluble fibres such as wholewheat bread and brown rice (which take a longer time to digest). Add more soluble fibres like oranges, mangoes, and vegetables such as cooked broccoli and carrots, to your diet"

Too much of beans, cauliflower or cabbage may also cause extra gas in the digestive system, says Dr Kulkarni. “Avoid caffeine, which stimulates the movement of food through the intestines towards the colon. This can in some cases provoke diarrhoea or loose stools." While medication can be effective for symptoms such as constipation, a bland, balanced diet is the best way to deal with IBS.

Excessive sweating

While mild sweating is commonplace, especially in India’s hot, muggy climate, some people experience an extreme version of it. It’s a medical condition called hyperhidrosis, characterized by sweating at all times (with telltale patches on your clothing, even when you’re not actually exposed to heat or are in an air-conditioned environment). “Many such people experience profuse sweating in the palms of their hands and the soles of their feet," says Sudha Menon, consultant, internal medicine, at Fortis Hospitals in Bengaluru.

Fixes: While a lot of this is dictated by a person’s genes and activity levels, keeping yourself clean and dry is the biggest challenge. “Washing frequently, keeping the sweat-prone zones clean and dry will help," says Dr Menon. The International Hyperhidrosis Society in the US recommends the use of antiperspirants as a non-invasive therapy. This can help if you suffer from heavy sweating in the armpits.

In cases where this isn’t effective, small doses of botox injections (usually used to smoothen facial wrinkles) have been known to help. “These works by blocking the sympathetic nerve in the armpit, which will prevent you from perspiring as much," says Dr Menon.

But there are drawbacks. The injection can cause pain when used in other parts of the body (such as the hands or feet) and will have to be repeated, usually once in six months.

Bad breath

Bad breath can be more than just a social scourge. “It’s usually indicative of a bigger problem, such as gum inflammation, a sinus problem that has been left untreated or even acid reflux (the regurgitation of stomach acid, causing acidity)," says Dr Menon.

“Periodic dental check-ups are required to remove plaque and to ensure that you don’t have gum disease. If you suffer from sinus, ensure that you treat it with decongestants," says Dr Menon.

Acid reflux is a common complaint among those who harbour bad breath.

Fixes: If you’re in the habit of popping mints and using mouthwashes, remember that this can only cover up the symptoms. This condition can be aggravated by several lifestyle choices.

If your bad breath is the result of acid reflux, a long-term strategy for changing sedentary habits is essential for the problem to resolve itself. “A diet rich in garlic, mint and onion could cause acid build-up. If you’re overweight, with fat centred around the abdomen, regurgitation of stomach acid is because of the angle in which your body is aligned," says Dr Menon.

Urinary incontinence

Lack of bladder control was once a condition that was thought to affect only the elderly. However, doctors say younger women are coming to them with such issues too. “In men, an enlarged prostate can be the cause, whereas for women it is often a condition that occurs post childbirth. Incontinence occurs when the muscles of the bladder contract or relax involuntarily," says Venkatesh Rao, urologist and andrologist at the Apollo Clinic in Bengaluru.

“It may also be caused by urinary tract infections, pressure on the pelvic tissue caused by obesity or neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and stroke. It also happens to teens who are very active in sports, because the pressure of running can damage the pelvic muscles and the connective tissue supporting the bladder," says Dr Rao.

Fixes: To gain control over the bladder, Dr Rao recommends learning pelvic exercises. The bladder can be consciously trained, he says, by gradually lengthening the gap between trips to the washroom. This will suppress urge incontinence. Relaxation exercises that involve taking slow and deep breaths during this time help.

Avoid drinking too much water at one go. Instead, take it in small amounts throughout the day. Dr Rao also advises against caffeinated beverages like coffee and fizzy drinks such as colas. When coughing, laughing and sneezing, tighten the pelvic muscles to avoid leaks, he says. And time your trips to the washroom at regular intervals to establish a routine.

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