More often than not, we assume that a particular disease can only occur to men.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on October 14, 2019. It has since been updated.
According to regiscollege.edu, a large number of health issues in women go undiagnosed and most drug trials do not include female test subjects. This, in turn, leads to women undergoing symptoms of many ailments with very less information or understanding of how certain conditions impact the female body differently than the male body.
Diseases such as cervical cancer, breast cancer, pregnancy complications, menopause, etc., are exclusive to women, while some conditions although common—like heart diseases, bone-related conditions, and hormone imbalances—impact women differently than it does men. For example, regiscollege.edu, outlines how heart attack is more fatal in women when compared to men and how certain mental health issues are more prevalent in women.
These six conditions are the most common ailments to affect women.
While heart diseases are a leading cause of casualty among both men and women, cardiac issues often go undiagnosed in women until a much later stage. Late diagnosis decreases the chances of treatment being effective. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the primary cause of death for women in the United States. According to Cinthia Pearson, executive director of the National Women's Health Network, death is not the leading cause of concern when it comes to heart diseases in women, it is in fact, premature death and disability.
"There are far too many women dying of heart disease in their 60s when no one expects to die because that's too young in this country," says Pearson. "There are (also) women, who, for many years, are really ill with heart disease—being out of breath, not being able to walk up one flight of stairs … because heart disease impairs their ability to get around," reports WebMD.
Two of the most common and aggressive cancers that affect women are cervical and breast cancer. According to WHO, the latest global stats show that more than one million women die of these two kinds of cancer around the world. Therefore, the key to successfully treating breast or cervical cancer is early detection. Breast cancer originates in the linings of the milk ducts. While most breast lumps are non-cancerous, it is important to get frequent check-ups done.
Cervical cancer originates in the lower part of the uterus. While there are no visible symptoms during the earlier stages, vaginal discharge, pelvic pain, and pain during intercourse are some symptoms that occur with time. Cervical cancer can be kept at bay by undergoing screenings, tests and vaccinations that protect against HPV infection, reports Mayo Clinic.
Unexpected or sudden bleeding, frequent urination, white or yellow discharge during or after menstruation could be signs of underlying conditions. According to regiscollege.edu, unusual discharge is often a sign of UTIs, STDs, kidney failure, etc.
Also, PCOS, polycystic ovarian syndrome, can give rise to a chain of health issues like obesity, diabetes, infertility, abnormal hair growth, etc., according to the Mayo Clinic.
Autoimmune disease occurs when body cells that eliminate threats, such as viruses, attack healthy cells, according to regisrollege.edu. The wide-spread prevalence and escalation of the auto-immune diseases in women have been baffling researchers for a long time. The most common symptoms of auto-immune diseases are exhaustion, mil fever, unusual pain, skin irritation, and vertigo.
Gone are the days when knee pain, back pain, etc., were the complaints made only the aged. According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, osteoporosis affects 1 in 4 women and more than 1 in 8 men over the age of 50 years. As bone formation in women declines after 30, maintaining bone health is important. Osteoporosis also occurs in younger women, and factors like poor diet, eating disorders, smoking, alcohol consumption, etc. add to the risk.
According to WHO, although the general rates of psychological ailments and psychiatric disorders are nearly identical between the sexes, there are striking gender differences and patterns in mental illness. The common illnesses that impact women include depression and anxiety disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. But some disorders are specific to women, such as symptoms that are amplified due to hormone changes, such as perinatal depression, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and perimenopause-related depression.
Research has found no differences in the rates at which women and men experience schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
According to Dorree Lynn, PhD, a psychologist and author of Getting Sane Without Going Crazy, women need a connection with others in their lives. "They need that sustenance. If they don't have it, they tend to get depressed," reports WebMD.