Differences From Men That Affect Women’s Health
For many years, medical research on topics, such as heart disease, focused on men. The results were then applied to women as well as men.
“More recently, science has come to understand that the variations in hormones, organs and even cultural influences imposes differences on a woman’s overall health,” says McLeod OB/GYN Dr. Stephen Jones. “For example, osteoporosis is more common in women. Some medicines, such as certain sleep medications and aspirin, affect women differently. Pain disorders, such as the jaw condition of TMJ, are more likely to affect women. And about 80% of people affected by autoimmune disease are women.”
In general, an autoimmune disease is where a person’s health is attacked by their own immune system. Some of the most common of these include:
Type 1 Diabetes, in which a person’s immune system attacks cells that make insulin, a hormone needed to control blood sugar.
Graves’ or Hashimoto’s disease, causing the thyroid gland to be either overactive or under active. Too much and a woman loses weight, perspires heavily, has muscle weakness and light menstrual periods. Too little thyroid hormone and a women is likely to gain weight, be sensitive to cold and experience stiff joints and facial swelling.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), inflammation of the digestive tract, leads to abdominal pain and diarrhea.
Psoriasis, a skin disease, in which new cells rise to the skin’s surface too quickly and accumulate in thick red patches, covered with scales. This reaction results in itching and pain.
Rheumatoid Arthritis, causing pain, stiffness and deformed joints with fatigue, fever and weight loss.
For a more complete list of autoimmune diseases that may strike women, click here.
WHO IS AT GREATER RISK?
Certain women may be more likely to suffer an autoimmune disease due to their age, their family or where they live. More specifically:
Autoimmune diseases often start during a woman’s childbearing years.
If there is a history in your family of a certain autoimmune disease, you are at higher risk.
Living with too much sunlight or near solvents can compromise your immune system or turn it against you.
ACTION YOU CAN TAKE
Don’t hesitate to mention any troubling symptoms during your OB/GYN office visit. They may be able to diagnose and treat your problem or, if necessary, refer you to the appropriate subspecialist for treatment.
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