When we talk about women’s health, we often touch on diseases like breast cancer, cervical cancer, and others related to their reproductive health. While it’s important to let women and girls know how vulnerable they can be to these diseases, they should also know about other conditions common to their sex but have significantly fewer cases.
In doing so, we can help women and girls understand their bodies more. Additionally, we can raise awareness about diseases that can be difficult to detect or diagnose.
Besides cancer, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), stroke, heart disease, and osteoporosis, these are the other diseases women should reduce their risks for:
- Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD)
A woman’s anatomy makes her more susceptible to STDs than a man. The female sex organ is thinner and more delicate, making it easier for bacteria and viruses to penetrate. In addition, the female sex organ provides the ideal environment for bacteria to grow.
The symptoms of STDs also affect women differently. They are often asymptomatic, especially if they’ve contracted gonorrhea or chlamydia. If symptoms do occur, they will go away quickly, but the infection may remain. As such, women’s STDs are more likely to go untreated, increasing their risks for HIV.
Even if women experience symptoms of an STD, they may mistake it for something else. Genital ulcers from herpes or syphilis, for example, aren’t as visible. But if it appears on the male sex organ, it’s easily visible, allowing men to seek treatment immediately.
Untreated STDs won’t only increase women’s risk for HIV but also reproductive problems, including pelvic inflammatory disease. This particular illness can cause infertility or ectopic pregnancy. Speaking of pregnancy, women with STDs can also pass the virus or bacteria to their unborn babies. Potential effects include stillbirth, low birth weight, brain damage, blindness, and deafness.
The most common sexually transmitted virus that infects women is the human papillomavirus (HPV). It is the leading cause of cervical cancer. Thankfully, an immunization for this exists.
Other STDs, however, don’t have any other deterrents except protected sexual intercourse. Condoms are the best form of protection, as it’s the only one that can prevent STDs. Women should also get checked regularly if they are sexually active. Luckily, women see their doctors more often than men, so they have more chances of addressing a potential STD early on. With or without symptoms, women should value their sexual health because a diagnosis may impair their reproductive health and quality of life.
- Thyroid Diseases
The thyroid is located near the base of the throat. Its shape resembles a butterfly. If it’s infected with a disease, the thyroid will enlarge and cause a bulge in the throat, called goiter.
One in eight women will develop a thyroid problem in their lifetime. It is an autoimmune disease, so its causes aren’t exactly known. Hence, the best way for women to prevent it is to know their risk factors and make lifestyle adjustments from there.
Thyroid disease is classified into two types: hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. The former is also called underactive thyroid. It is when the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormones. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis causes it, an autoimmune disease that attacks the thyroid. Symptoms include feeling cold, unexplained weight gain, thinning hair, and a puffy face.
Hyperthyroidism is the opposite. It is an overactive thyroid, so it causes the thyroid to produce excessive thyroid hormones. Grave’s Disease is its leading cause. Symptoms include unexplained weight loss, irritability, sleep problems, increased sweating, and feeling hot.
Both diseases have no cure yet. But effective treatments are available to reduce thyroid symptoms. It is crucial to treat thyroid problems early because neglecting it can increase the risk for thyroid cancer.
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)
Men and women can get CFS, but the ratio of women to men can be as high as 4 :1. It is common in people between 40 and 60 years old. Most cases are sporadic, but extreme ones can have crippling symptoms.
As its name suggests, CFS causes fatigue that doesn’t go away. No single cause has been identified yet, but researchers consider viral infections, a weakened immune system, stress, and hormonal imbalances. Risk factors include genetic predisposition, allergies, stress, and environmental factors.
Aside from fatigue, symptoms of CFS include sleep troubles, memory loss, reduced concentration, and muscle pain.
Like thyroid problems, CFS is an autoimmune disease and has no cure. But treatment exists. It doesn’t always require medication as much as lifestyle changes and home remedies.
Knowing about these diseases can help women avoid unhealthy activities that can increase their risk factors. It also sheds light on conditions with no exact causes and a known cure. This will allow everyone, regardless of sex, to realize that diseases can occur out of the blue. Hence, health shouldn’t be taken for granted.