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Women's Health Conditions

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Monday, 19 August 2013 18:42

Women's Health Conditions

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Monday August 19 2013

My downtown Toronto and Mississauga practices primarily consist of female patients, so I thought that it was fitting to share this on my blog when I read this article on Huffington Post (by Catherine Pearson) about the 7 surprising health conditions that affect women more than men.  



There are some diseases and conditions that only affect women, and others that most of us immediately, if not exclusively, associate with them, like breast cancer (although men can get it, too) and eating disorders (same thing).

But there are also a slew of health problems are far less likely to be recognized as issues disproportionately impacting women, which means many struggle to get help and answers -- for months and even years at a time. At the top of that list are autoimmune disorders, which occur when the body's immune system attacks itself, and that are far more common in women than in men. For some autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, 9 out of 10 people affected are women, explained Virginia Ladd, founder and executive director of the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association.

"Why that is is still not known," she told The Huffington Post. "There is a lot of research looking at the effects of estrogen -- the hormonal effect. But we definitely need much more."

Here are seven health conditions -- autoimmune and otherwise -- that disproportionately affect women.

1. Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis, or MS, is a disease of the central nervous system that affects more than 2.1 people worldwide, the Multiple Sclerosis Society reports. It's also two to three times more common in women than in men. 

Many experts classify MS as an autoimmune disease, but because no specific antigen (a protein that stimulates the immune response) has been identified to date, others are hesitant to classify it as such. Most people with MS experience their first symptoms between age 20 and 40, and they run from the gamut from muscle numbness to paralysis and vision loss. Although treatments to help lessen symptoms exist, there is currently no cure.

2. Lupus

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues, leading to potential damage of a person's skin, joints and various organs. Symptoms vary widely, although some of the most common are extreme fatigue, headaches, swollen joints or feet, legs, hands and eyes, and hair loss. No one knows what causes lupus, although it is clear that women are at much greater risk: More than 90 percent of the people with lupus are women, according to the Lupus Foundation of America. And because the disease primarily affects young women who go undiagnosed for years, Ladd said, it can have a significant, longterm impact on their health. 
"Women may have joint pain and fatigue, but their doctors wouldn't think to send them to a kidney specialist, for example," she said, "By the time they are diagnosed with lupus, they could have very serious and costly kidney problems."
3. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes Chronic Fatigue Syndrome as a "devastating and complex disorder," in which people experience overwhelming fatigue that is not improved by bed rest, as well as a host of other symptoms, like muscle pain, memory loss and insomnia. Basic tasks such as dressing or showering or even just thinking can overwhelm people with the disorder. Women are four times more likely to develop Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for reasons that are not yet entirely clear -- it could be that certain hormones or brain chemistry differences contribute.
4. Depression
Experts are pretty clear on the fact that depression is twice as common in women as it is in men (about one in five women develop depression in their lifetimes, according to the Mayo Clinic). But they're less clear on why.
It's likely that there are biological reasons behind the disparity. For example, between menstruation, childbirth and menopause, women generally experience many more hormonal fluctuations throughout their lifetime than men do, which can affect mood. But as Psychology Today explains, there are also psychological explanations for the gap -- women, on the whole, tend to be more "ruminative" than men, which may predispose them to depression; they also tend to live longer and with older age often comes loss and loneliness. Then there's the fact that women are far more likely to talk to a doctor about symptoms of depression, leading to greater rates of diagnosis.
5. Celiac Disease
According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, celiac disease -- a negative immune reaction to eating gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye -- occurs more frequently in women than in men: Between 60 and 70 percent of the individuals diagnosed with celiac are women.
When most people think of celiac, they think of gastrointestinal issues, such as weight loss, bloating, severe stomach pain and diarrhea, but some evidence suggests the disease also takes a toll on women's reproductive abilities. Indeed, studies have linked celiac with menstrual disorders and unexplained infertility, although that link has not been definitively established. But given that the average age of diagnosis is 45, according to the Celiac Awareness Foundation, and that it may take up to 10 years to receive a diagnosis, it is possible that the disease damages some women's reproductive systems for years before they get help.
6. Irritable Bowel Syndrome
A common disorder that affects the large intestine, irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, typically causes cramping, pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation consistently for at least three months -- and it impacts women more than men. The International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders reports that there are up to 3.5 million annual doctors visits for IBS in the U.S. each year (although many people don't recognize IBS symptoms in themselves and do not seek help), and up to 65 percent of the individuals who report having IBS are women. 

The causes are unknown. Because women are more likely than men to have IBS -- and their symptoms are often worse around their periods -- hormones are thought to play a role.
7. Sexually Transmitted Infections
Estimates suggest that roughly 19 million new sexually transmitted infections occur in the U.S. each year, and while they affect both men and women, women have more frequent and more serious health problems from them than men, theU.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health explains. There are any number of reasons for that -- the lining of the vagina is more delicate than the skin on the penis, meaning it's easier for bacteria and viruses to penetrate; women are less likely to have symptoms of diseases like chlamydia and gonorrhea or to write off symptoms as a yeast infection, meaning they often don't get treatment until serious damage has been done. The good news, the CDC reports, is that women are more likely than men to go see their doctors in general, and should be sure to ask for testing while they are there.


You can find the original article HERE.

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