Women’s health and its dynamics are slowly gaining the spotlight. Several conditions such as PCOS, infertility, heart disease and diabetes are widely discussed today. Women are becoming increasingly aware of various conditions that could possibly affect them. However, there are a few conditions that women are vulnerable to, which don’t frequently get discussed.
Initially, patients with fibromyalgia are usually mistaken for having arthritis or a muscle related disease. In most cases, fibromyalgia is a diagnosis of exclusion. Women with fibromyalgia mention persistent pain in certain areas of their body. This includes their neck, lower back, shoulders, chest, knee joints and hips. In addition, women may have excessive pain during menses along with painful bowel and bladder movements. All of this pain results in a disturbance during sleep. Simple remedies and painkillers also do not help with alleviating the pain.
2) Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)
SLE has a higher preponderance among women, yet very little is known about the symptoms related to SLE. Systemic lupus erythematosus is a multisystem disorder. It is a disease where the body attacks its own tissues. Signs of SLE can often be confusing as they affect different parts of the body for different women. Some of these signs and symptoms include a rash on the face, fatigue, loss of hair, tiny red spots on the skin, fingers turning blue to white and ulcerations of mouth/nose/genitals. Due to the varied and fluctuating nature of the disease, it takes a while before diagnosis confirms that a woman has SLE.
3) Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)
CFS is usually diagnosed following the exclusion of other possible underlying diseases. Ideally, women observe sleep disturbances, extreme fatigue, muscle fatigue, joint aches, headaches and flu-like symptoms. Women encounter one or more of these symptoms on more than one day during the week. Laboratory tests usually do not show up with any significant findings. A combination of medications, physiotherapy and lifestyle changes will be required for the long run. Women who make significant lifestyle modifications observe the best relief from symptoms of CFS.
4) Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
MS is a condition that affects the central nervous system. It is an autoimmune condition. This means that the body attacks its own tissues. A part of the nervous tissue is affected in multiple sclerosis. Women have a higher likelihood of developing multiple sclerosis than men. Some of the symptoms of MS include changes in vision, tingling, numbness, fatigue, problems with balance, bowel and bladder dysfunction, pain and muscle weakness. These are just a few. Women might present with one or a combination of symptoms. A key fact is the waxing and waning nature of MS. Therefore it can go on for years before it is diagnosed.
India has the largest incidence of cervical cancer in South Asia.
While the term endometriosis is used quite frequently when discussing women’s health, very few know the symptoms and signs related to endometriosis. This is a condition where the uterine tissue is found outside the uterus. They are often found in the organs within the pelvis (rectum, ovaries, fallopian tubes). These extrauterine tissues follow the same cycle that tissue within the uterus would follow during a normal menstrual cycle. They grow and slough off during each menstrual cycle. Painful periods, abdominal pain, painful urination, painful bowel movements and pain during intercourse, are possible symptoms which are present for more than one cycle and often requires investigation for endometriosis. Endometriosis has been known to be confused with irritable bowel syndrome, pelvic inflammatory disorders, ovarian cysts, to name a few.
6) Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)
While many women are aware of PMS (premenstrual syndrome), very few know about premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). This is when women experience symptoms of depression during their premenstrual phase. The symptoms are debilitating and disrupt a woman’s normal daily functioning. The symptoms subside at the onset of menses. Symptoms of PMDD include sleep disturbances, loss of energy, fluctuations in mood, agitation, irritability, loss of interest in regular activities. These are present on most days – a week to ten days before menses.
7) Cervical Cancer
When discussing cancer among women, the first type that comes to mind is breast cancer. While this is the leading cause of cancer among women, ovarian and cervical cancer are also increasing in prevalence among women. India has the largest incidence of cervical cancer in South Asia. Cervical cancer has signs that include painful intercourse, spotting in between menses, increased vaginal discharge and pelvic/back pain. Cervical cancer can be asymptomatic in several women. Cervical cancer is caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) which can be diagnosed through a simple pap smear. However, very few women are aware of this test or even get it during their lifetime.
Osteoporosis is referred to as a disease of the elderly. This is because, estrogen which is a bone-protective hormone, sharply declines after menopause, which results in the thinning of the bone matrix. But today with vitamin D and calcium deficiencies, women in their reproductive years are also prone to osteoporosis. Other associated conditions that predispose to osteoporosis include anorexia, health conditions like diabetes and amenorrhea. While initial phases only present themselves as joint aches and generalized weakness, in the long run, it can result in bone breakage.
A woman should put her health, both mental and physical, at the forefront. A healthy body and mind are crucial to be able to tackle day to day activities. There are many conditions that fall under the umbrella of women’s health that gets rarely discussed. Creating awareness is the first way to be up to speed on the latest regarding one’s health. Another key aspect is getting routine check-ups. This includes yearly physicals with a general physician as well as routine check-ups with a gynaecologist.
Featured image source: UConn Health Journal – University of Connecticut