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date: 4/25/2007
Solutions to common intimate concerns
Are you too embarrassed to ask even your doctor about certain personal issues? provides answers to intimate concerns in four areas.
Subscribe to today to get the facts about more than 150 common medical conditions and sort through drug and nondrug treatment options.
Whether you’re embarrassed by foot odor or worried about the safety of talcum powder, here are answers to some common predicaments.

For most people, treating this condition simply involves keeping your feet clean and dry, since odor-causing bacteria thrive in a damp environment. Cotton and wool socks absorb sweat but also tend to retain it. Instead, choose socks made of synthetic materials, which help draw away perspiration. And choose shoes with leather, mesh, or perforated uppers. To inhibit bacteria, don’t wear the same pair of shoes two days in a row. Applying a moisture-absorbing, nonmedicated powder may also help keep feet dry.  Note: Persistent odor can signal a fungal infection or a hereditary condition that may require a doctor’s attention.

Could using an antiperspirant boost your risk of Alzheimer’s disease? That fear arose after some researchers found Alzheimer’s patients to have elevated brain levels of aluminum, commonly used in antiperspirants to help plug sweat glands. Still, while some studies have suggested exposure to aluminum may possibly raise the risk of Alzheimer’s, many other studies have found no such connection. The Food and Drug Administration has concluded that antiperspirants and household items such as aluminum pots are generally safe.

Researchers have long worried that using talcum powder to reduce genital moisture or chafing might increase the risk of ovarian cancer. That’s because the mineral talc can contain asbestos, a known carcinogen. U.S. regulations require talc products to be free of asbestos, but scientists say that talc may still contain asbestos-like fibers. The evidence, however, on the possible ovarian-cancer risk has been inconclusive.  Women who want to avoid that possibility could use cornstarch-based powder instead. However, they should watch for signs of fungal skin infections--itching, redness, and discharge--since cornstarch can encourage them. People with diabetes, who are particularly susceptible to those infections, should not use cornstarch.

Insufficient vaginal moisture, which can cause itching and burning and make intercourse uncomfortable, often develops after menopause, when the estrogen level falls. But it may have other causes, notably an immune disorder, or use of some antidepressants, cold drugs, or douches. So get a diagnosis from your doctor first.  If the cause can’t be determined promptly, certain self-care treatments may help. Try moisturizers such as K-Y Vaginal Moisturizer and Replens, or lubricants such as Vagisil. If your partner is using a condom, choose water-based lubricants, such as Astroglide gel, because oil-based products can weaken condoms and increase the chance of breakage. Avoid douching and using scented products in the outer vaginal area to reduce irritation.  For severe symptoms that don’t respond to those steps, consider asking your doctor about trying topical estrogen. It’s highly effective, and using the smallest amount for the shortest amount of time possible minimizes any theoretical cardiovascular risk.  

This article first appeared in the May 2007 issue of Consumer Reports on Health.

This site is for your information only. For medical advice, consult a health professional.