All In 4 Health: #Allin4health #health4all #minding your wellbeing #healthawareness
By Dr T W Ngwenya Changamire
Majority of men have poor health-seeking behaviours. It is known that majority of men underutilise available health services. Several studies have been conducted in different countries aimed at understanding the reasons behind poor health seeking behaviours in men.
There are factors that affect health-seeking behaviours like level of education, accessibility of health service, poor knowledge of preventable health conditions, employment status, income level, religious and cultural beliefs and influence by peers. These factors are not necessarily gendering specific.
One major determinant that has come across in factors affecting men’s health is social constructionism. Social constructionism is when a community or group of people create an idea and the idea is accepted by the community. This idea becomes the way of life and may affect how community members make decisions regarding certain issues or how they may act pertaining to that idea.
Social constructionism has played a significant role in the health-seeking behaviours of men or indulgence in risky behaviours that impact their health in the long run.
A common social construct in some communities is that men are known or expected to drink heavily, engage in drug abuse, have unprotected sexual intercourse with multiple partners.
Men may identify themselves with this behaviour in some communities to fit the masculine role predefined in the community. Such behaviours expose men to ill health.
There is more talk and conversations around women’s health conditions. While this is good we are however not putting enough effort to discuss issues affecting men’s health. This may be a contributing factor as well leading to why men are not motivated to visit the doctor or local health clinics except when they are severely ill.
I would like to increase knowledge around men’s health, this is in the hope that when one gets an understanding on issues affecting men particularly preventable health conditions more men will be motivated to take control of their health, improve on their health-seeking behaviours, go in for routine medical examinations, break free from social constructs that promote unhealthy behaviours.
It is important for men and women to develop an ongoing working relationship with a general practitioner, a doctor who is aware of your family risks and lifestyle risks and advises accordingly what tests need to be done.
It’s important to be comfortable with your chosen general practitioner to ensure that all health issues are addressed whether or not they are difficult to discuss.
Our previous articles have mentioned other chronic conditions like high blood pressure also known as hypertension, Diabetes, Obesity and Dyslipidaemia which increase the risk of strokes and heart attacks and chronic kidney disease. These chronic conditions affect both genders and people are encouraged to for screening at least once a year for these chronic conditions.
Medical conditions that commonly affect men’s health include Sexually transmitted infections, sexual dysfunction, testicular cancer, prostate cancer, colorectal cancer and breast cancer.
Sexually transmitted infections are high in men. This is a result of risky sexual behaviours like unprotected sexual intercourse and multiple sexual partners.
It is important to get screened annually for syphilis, gonorrhoea, chlamydia, genital herpes. If STI’s are left untreated they increase your risk of contracting HIV. Untreated STI’s may complicate and result in progression of infection in the testicles. Some STIs may lead to infertility if left untreated. Some STIs are treatable.
They are treated with antibiotics however some are not treatable and persist for life like HIV and Herpes infection. Symptoms of STI’s in men include painful and burning sensation when urinating, discharge from the urethra or painful blisters, ulcers or warts.
It is imperative to note that sometimes people infected with chlamydia, gonorrhoea or trichomonas may not always present with symptoms. This is why we say if someone has engaged in unprotected sexual activity it is important to get screened annually for STI’s.
Early infection with syphilis presents as an ulcer which may later heal without treatment. However even if the ulcer heals it is still important to get antibiotics targeted at treating syphilis.
Untreated syphilis may cause complications later on in life.
This can be as far as 20 to 30 years after initial infection. We call this tertiary syphilis. Tertiary syphilis may affect the brain and blood vessels and lead to conditions like Psychosis, Strokes and Aneurysms.
Many STI’s are diagnosed based on history and physical examinations. It is still advised to do blood tests to check for infection in those who are asymptomatic. If you are being treated for an STI ensure that all your sexual partners are informed and are also treated. Reinfection is also possible if you have unprotected sexual intercourse with an untreated partner.
Untreated STI infection drive the spread of HIV infection. If you contract an STI you are most likely going to develop a sore or break in the skin. HIV is able to enter your body more easily through the broken skin from the STI.
Once you have been diagnosed with an STI it is important to check your HIV status. This is simply because the same risky behaviours that led to STI infection may have also put you at risk of contracting HIV.
Once you have been diagnosed with HIV you are advised to enrol into an Antiretroviral programme with your general practitioner of local clinic.
They will do the necessary screening tests for other diseases like TB before they initiate you on antiretroviral agents.
To lower your risk of STI/HIV infection use condoms, reduce the number of sexual partners, always aim to know your status and the status of your sexual partner and visit your practitioner to get tested, talk to your practitioner about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PreP) or post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) in the prevention of HIV infection.
Our next article will be discussing common cancers affecting men and when one should start getting screened. We will also have an article on Sexual dysfunction in men and its risk factors.
Contact All In 4 Health – Dr TW Ngwenya Changamire – for General Medical Consultation, Health Screening, Medical Check-up, Health Education and Promotion. The Glen Marais Shopping Centre, 57 Veld Street, Glen Marais, Kempton park 1619
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