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Symptoms Men Should Never Ignore
By Daniel Casciato

Matthew D. Diiulio, D.O.When it comes to men's health, there are several symptoms men simply cannot ignore. Those symptoms are largely related to bowel, urinary, and genital issues, according to Matthew D. Diiulio, D.O. of Washington Health System Primary Care-Lakeside in McMurray, PA.

"With the bowels, you're looking for things like blood in the stool," says Dr. Diiulio. "Blood in stool can be bright red, or blood can also make the stools black or tarry, which may even stick to the commode when trying to flush. A change in stool caliber shouldn't be ignored, such as a new onset of pencil thin stools."

With urinary symptoms, all men should be on the lookout for change in urine frequency (going more often), urgency (needing to hurry to the bathroom), change in urine stream (noticing a 'sputtering' or weak stream), or blood in the urine.

With genital symptoms, men should never ignore new onset erectile difficulties, changes in the appearance of the penis, testes or scrotum such as swelling, lumps, bumps, or lesions, or blood or discharge from the penis.

Know what symptoms to look for

While all causes of symptoms relating to men's health are too numerous to completely list here, knowing what to watch for, knowing your body so you recognize abnormality, and bringing it to your doctor's attention is key, notes Dr. Diiulio.

"In general, bright red blood in the stool can be commonly caused by internal painless bleeding hemorrhoids or often painful external hemorrhoids," he explains. "Both bright and dark blood in the stool or changes in stool caliber can be a sign of colon cancer, which is why these symptoms can't be ignored. Remember that colon cancer is often only symptomatic late in the disease process, which is why screening (looking for disease in healthy patients 50 years and older) is so important."

Urinary changes in men can be a sign of bacterial infection in the bladder, kidneys, or even the prostate. If a urinary tract infection is diagnosed in men, often further work-up is needed as it can be a harbinger of more insidious pathology.

"Change in urinary stream or blood in the urine can also be a sign of prostate disease, be it benign enlargement or prostate cancer," says Dr. Diiulio. "In fact, these symptoms could be signs of cancers anywhere along the urinary tract."

According to Dr. Diiulio, some of the genital symptoms mentioned can be early signs of sexually transmitted infections such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, or syphilis, particularly penile discharge or lesions. Note these can be asymptotic in men: one of the many reasons why healthy check-ups are so important.

"Testicular or scrotal swelling and enlargement can be a a sign of abnormalities in the vessels that feed the testicles, or even even testicular cancer which is more prevalent in men 14 to 40 years of age," he says. "Remember, because of the prostate's close anatomical relationship to the penis, erectile dysfunction, and blood or discharge from the penis can all be signs of prostate disease as well."

What to do if you experience any symptoms

If you notice any of the above-mentioned symptoms, call your doctor.

"Sometimes, a simple discussion is enough to get down to the root cause of symptoms, but the only way to be sure is to make your doctor aware of these symptoms," says Dr. Diiulio.

Hopefully, however, you're getting regular check-ups and even performing regular self exams.

"Ben Franklin has famously said, 'An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,'" says Dr. Diiulio. "Regular self exams are integral in getting to know your body so that you recognize changes."

Regular check-ups are a critical part of a healthy lifestyle, helping in preventing men's health issues or catching them early on. Check-ups are also the time to ensure you're doing everything you can to reduce your risks for heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

"It's very common to be a bit reluctant or even embarrassed to bring up men's health topics in an office visit," says Dr. Diiulio. "Remember, your doc is here to help. There's nothing to be embarrassed about, and it's nothing they haven't heard before. Making notes of your symptoms is a fine way to ensure you don't leave any major symptoms out of the discussion."

One question Dr. Diiulio often gets asked about is about vitamin supplements. For young healthy men, you're probably getting all the routine vitamins that you need in an average diet, as many of our foods are fortified.

"Fiber is the exception," he says. "The average American eats around 15 grams of fiber, when we should be eating closer to 40 grams! Fiber is integral in helping lowering cholesterol, reducing risk of diabetes, and is a key to colon health. Of course, we all have different needs so specific recommendations should be discussed with your doctor."

For more information, visit whslakeside.org or call 724-969-1001.

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