Illnesses common in women and how to manage your risk
While disease is not unique to any gender, there are some illness that affect women more severely, or more often than they do men. Here are some of the ones to look out for.
Millions of women abuse alcohol, and while men are more likely to become dependent on or addicted to alcohol than women are, the health effects of alcohol abuse are more serious in women. This includes an increased risk for breast cancer, heart disease, and foetal alcohol syndrome.
According to studies by the American Psychological Association, stress is on the rise for women. Nearly 50% of the women they surveyed reported increased stress levels over the past five years. Stress also has unique effects on women, including reducing the chances of falling pregnant.
This is the leading cause of death in women, and they are more likely to die from a heart attack than men are. Symptoms include weakness in arms, pain in the chest area, and shortness of breath. Women are also known to experience nausea or vomiting. Many women ignore the symptoms, often writing them off as heartburn or over exercising.
According to research, more women are affected by strokes than men are. There are two kinds of stroke – the first involves bleeding on the brain and the second is the result of a blockage in a blood vessel that limits blood flow. While symptoms vary depending on the underlying cause of stroke, they typically include numbness of the hands and feet, and difficulty with speech.
Many risk factors, like family history of stroke, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol are universal, some are unique to women. These are:
- Taking of birth control pills
- Being pregnant
- Hormone replacement therapy
- Frequent migraines
- Being overweight
While not unique to women, diabetes dos increase the risk of heart disease by four times in women. Women are also more likely to experience diabetes-related complications like kidney disease and blindness.
Gestational diabetes is a condition that can occur during pregnancy when glucose levels rise, and complications set in. 3% of pregnant women suffer from gestational diabetes. Treatment includes a healthy diet, exercise, insulin injections, blood glucose monitoring and oral medication. Prevention includes following a healthy diet and exercising regularly.
Urinary tract infections.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) is caused by germs in the urethra. UTIs are especially common in women as they have a shorter urethra than men do, decreasing the length bacteria has to travel to reach the bladder. Symptoms include frequent urination, pain or burning when urinating, and cloudy urine. UTIs can resolve on their own, but can be treated with antibiotics if necessary.
One of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is the human papillomavirus (HPV), which can be prevented with the HPV vaccine.
Approximately 80% percent of sexually active men and women will be infected with HPV at some point in their lives. There are over a hundred types of HPV, with more than 14 linked with precancer of the cervix. Having regular pap smears can help detect precancerous cells, allowing for early treatment and possible eradication of disease.
Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in women. Performing regular self-examinations can help you detect changes in your breasts which can then be addressed by your doctor. An annual mammogram is recommended from age 40, or earlier if there is a family history of breast cancer.
Following a healthy lifestyle by eating well and exercising regularly goes a long way in prevention and treatment of these diseases. Early detection saves lives, so be sure to have regular check ups at your nearest Clinix hospital where our team of doctors can assist you with whatever concerns or questions you might have.