When it comes to men's health, there are certain conditions that don't get talked about enough. The reason for this varies, and is sometimes a case of the condition being rare, but, as a consultant urologist, I know that one of the most commons reasons is embarrassment. Especially if a particular ailment happens to affect a man's private parts.
This embarrassment then contributes to ignorance - if conditions aren't talked about because they are embarrassing or too personal then even fewer people will be made aware of them. With men unable or unwilling to recognise and acknowledge their symptoms, conditions will go untreated, potentially causing greater health risks.
Men are known for being less inclined than women to go to the doctor, and when it comes to problems that are rarely discussed, or have a stigma attached to them, this reluctance is even worse. But I have seen first-hand that the costs are too great for men to allow embarrassment, or shame, or reluctance to stand in the way of getting help with their health.
As such, I have compiled a list of the top five health conditions I know are not getting enough attention. They each have their own different reasons for not getting sufficient air time, but each one is important in its own right and all men should know about them.
Said to be the second most common birth defect in males, hypospadias occurs in approximately 1 in 250 men. The condition affects the urethra, causing the urinary opening to be lower down than its usual position at the head of the penis, and can also prevent the full development of the foreskin.
Hypospadias is usually fairly simple to treat with surgery, but luckily for most of those with the condition, it is normally spotted at birth or in infancy, so they do not remember the experience. However, if it goes undetected and is left untreated into adulthood, or the original surgery is not completely successful, hypospadias affects urination and even sexual activity. Given how inconvenient this is, and how frequently the condition occurs, this is something that more men should be aware of.
2. Thrush in men
You read that right. Although thrush is a condition most frequently associated with women, it also occurs in men. It is caused by a fungus called Candida albicans, and funguses aren't interested in discriminating by gender.
In men, thrush affects the head of the penis, causing symptoms such as irritation, redness and discharge. Thrush can be easily treated with over-the-counter medications, but if you have any of these symptoms and aren't sure what they are, head straight to your doctor, as it could also be a more serious infection. If you've had thrush before and recognise the symptoms, you're probably safe to treat it yourself, though, if you have any doubts, asking your GP or pharmacist is always a good idea.
Thrush can be transmitted sexually, but it doesn't have to be. It can and does occur in men and women who are not sexually active; the best way to prevent this is practising good hygiene. Given the similarities with the symptoms of STIs, the symptoms of thrush can be pretty worrying - it is important to have this condition on your radar. If it is persistent, this may be associated with diabetes so it would be good practice to ask your GP to check your glucose levels.
3. Peyronie's disease
Peyronie's is a condition which causes a bend in the penis. It is caused by a build-up of collagen in the penis, which creates fibrous scar tissue and thickened nodules, which causes the penis to develop a sharp bend when erect. It affects 3-7% of the male population worldwide and over 150,000 men in the UK. This is most likely an underestimate, as men, are hesitant to go to the doctor about symptoms affecting their penis or their sexual health, and tend to underreport the condition.
Despite how common it is, very few people are aware of the existence of Peyronie's. On top of this, embarrassment makes those suffering from Peyronie's less likely to seek treatment. The bend in the penis caused by Peyronie's is painful and can make penetrative sex difficult or impossible, which can in turn affect relationships and even mental health. This makes it imperative that Peyronie's is treated as soon as possible; the condition doesn't get better by itself.
There are a variety of different treatment options for Peyronie's. Some cases can be treated with a course of injections, some with surgery. It can also be treated with vacuum devices and stretching machines, although this requires great persistence on the part of the patient. However, the first step is always diagnosis - this is why, should you notice anything out of the ordinary, the best course of action is to book an appointment with your doctor. There is no reason to hesitate: your doctor will not only be familiar with the condition, they will likely have seen it many, many times before. It is one of the conditions I most often treat.
4. Enlarged prostate
Given how common this condition is, it is certainly something all men should be aware of. Around one in eight men will be affected by enlarged prostate during their lifetime. It usually becomes apparent in men over fifty, but can and does occur in younger men, so it is important that all men are able to recognise the symptoms.
The symptoms of an enlarged prostate can include finding it difficult or straining to empty your bladder, or having to get up frequently during the night to use the toilet. Fortunately, in most cases, the condition is benign (not cancerous). However, the condition can be malignant, so if you experience any of the aforementioned symptoms, you must go and get it checked out.
5. Testicular cancer
A higher risk of cancer is generally associated with older people, but testicular cancer in particular tends to affects younger men. As such, all young men should be alert to the symptoms, and do a check themselves every month or so for lumps or swelling: take the testicle between your fingers and roll it gently back and forth to check for lumps. If you notice anything, it is essential you see your doctor immediately. These simple checks save lives.
While it is very dangerous if left untreated, testicular cancer is one of the groups of cancers which respond very well to treatment, and the majority of young men diagnosed with it can be completely cured. Hence the urgency of going to get it checked out by a doctor if you notice anything.
Even if you don't have symptoms yourself, raising awareness about these conditions will help those around you.
Ignorance, shame and embarrassment are not worth risking your health for. If you notice any of the symptoms of the above conditions, go to your doctor and make sure you get it checked out - it can't hurt.