18 Health Problems Women Should Know About
Being a woman comes with its own set of perks as well as its own set of challenges, particularly when it comes to women’s health. Our intricate reproductive systems should be closely monitored for abnormalities as many women are unfamiliar with the signs that could indicate a possible health issue or condition.
If one of your goals for this year is to take charge of your health, here are 18 issues specific to women that you should know about.
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1. Pregnancy Gingivitis
We’re all familiar with the usual issues that can accompany a pregnancy like swollen ankles, food cravings, and heartburn, but did you know that around half of all expecting women experience pregnancy gingivitis? Due to hormonal changes in the body, gums become sensitive and inflamed, and in rare cases, benign mouth tumors can even start to grow. Expectant mothers should be careful to take good care of their teeth and gums over the course of their pregnancy.
Almost all women have experienced painful menstrual cramps at some point in their life, but if you are regularly having severe pain that is interfering with your day-to-day life, you may have dysmenorrhea. Several factors such as stress, obesity, a tilted uterus, or excessive levels of hormones can cause this. However, it could also be a sign of an underlying reproductive issue so it would be wise to consult a physician.
Vulvodynia sounds as uncomfortable to experience as it is to say. Vulvodynia is chronic pain or discomfort around the opening of the vagina, known as the vulva. The pain can feel like burning, stinging or stabbing, and can make sex and sitting down for long periods of time difficult. The exact causes are unknown, but the condition is thought to be linked to past infections, allergies, and hormonal changes.
This painful reproductive condition is being talked about more and more as of late since celebrities like Lena Dunham and Daisy Ridley have come forward with their own stories about dealing with the illness. Endometriosis is when tissue that would normally grow on the inside of the uterus grows outside in the abdomen, which can lead to intense pain, inflammation, scarring, and infertility. While there is no cause for the condition, it can be treated with painkillers, hormone therapy, or surgery.
You have probably heard of osteoporosis, as it is a common bone disease that affects around one in two American women. But did you know that there are steps you can take now that could help prevent it? Osteoporosis occurs when the body’s bones deteriorate, becoming weak and prone to breakage. By eating well, exercising, and getting plenty of calcium and vitamin D, you can help fend off this condition while you’re still young.
6. Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
There are more than 100 strains of HPV, a common sexually transmitted disease, that most sexually active people will get in their lifetime. Most strains are harmless and often go away without treatment; but some high-risk strains can lead to cancer. Although HPV affects both women and men, it is linked to cervical cancer, the second most common cancer among women. The World Health Organization recommends that young teens, particularly females, be vaccinated to guard against the cancer-causing strains of HPV.
7. Uterine Fibroids
It’s estimated that between 20-80% of all women develop uterine muscle tumors known as fibroids before the age of 50, yet most have probably never even heard of the condition. Generally benign, uterine fibroids can still cause a great deal of discomfort as they can lead to heavy menstruation, pressure on the bladder, and an enlarged abdomen. Uterine fibroids are thought to be caused by genetics or hormone levels and can be treated by medication or in extreme cases, surgery.
If you think it’s normal for sex to be difficult, painful, and uncomfortable, you could be suffering from vaginismus. Vaginismus is a condition where a woman’s vaginal muscles tense upon penetration. It makes it very painful and sometimes impossible to have sex, insert a tampon, or receive a pelvic exam. Many women suffer in silence and shame from this condition, but they don’t have to. Kegel exercises and therapy are effective treatments that can help sufferers experience relief and greatly improve their overall quality of life.
9. Breast Cancer
Most people are familiar with the pink ribbon campaign in support of breast cancer research. However, too many women still do not know the signs of breast cancer or how to conduct a self-examination. Breast cancer is a growth of cancerous cells in the breast tissue caused by gene mutation. If not detected, malignant tumors can spread to other parts of the body. Women of all ages should examine themselves monthly to monitor for abnormalities.
10. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is a disorder that affects 10% of women in the United States, yet it is rarely talked about. Its symptoms include prolonged periods, obesity, excess hair growth, and acne. Sufferers shouldn’t be embarrassed to get help for it though because it could get worse as PCOS has been linked to other health issues like heart disease and Type-2 Diabetes.
11. Gynecological cancers
The pink ribbon is a symbol for breast cancer awareness, but do you know what the purple ribbon represents? Purple is the symbol of gynecological cancer. This includes cervical, ovarian, uterine, vaginal, and vulvar cancers. Symptoms like abnormal discharge, pain, bloating, and pelvic pressure can all be signs of gynecological cancer, so be sure to listen to your body. These types of cancer are fought best when caught early, so it’s always a good idea to visit your gynecologist regularly.
Like HPV, trichomoniasis is an STD that many get but few ever know they have. Around 3.7 million people in the U.S. have the infection, but only around 30% ever show symptoms. Women, especially older women, are more likely to have the infection than men. Those who do show symptoms complain of genital pain, itching, and difficulty urinating. Don’t worry though; trichomoniasis is easily cured with a round of antibiotics.
13. Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)
Ask any woman and she’s probably heard the same tired joke before: “are you on your period or something?” But PMS is no laughing matter, especially not when it’s severe enough to be classified as PMDD. Sufferers of PMDD can experience severe depression, anxiety, mood swings, and insomnia before their menstrual cycle to such a degree that it interrupts both their lives and their relationships.
Because women lose blood regularly through menstruation, they are especially susceptible to having a red blood cell deficiency, otherwise known as anemia. Anemia sufferers complain of feeling tired, dizzy, and sometimes can have yellow skin, irregular heartbeats, headaches, and cold hands and feet. Anemia can sometimes be caused by iron or B-12 deficiencies so be sure to visit your doctor if you are experiencing these symptoms.
15. Interstitial Cystitis
More common in woman than in men, interstitial cystitis is an irritation of the bladder and is characterized by pain or discomfort in the pelvic area and a sudden urge to urinate. The causes of IC are still unknown and the condition can be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms are similar to those of other bladder problems. Treatments vary from person-to-person and can include medication, lifestyle changes, and surgeries.
Lupus can affect both genders, but women are 9 times more likely than men to have the chronic inflammatory disease. Lupus occurs when a body’s immune system attacks its host, causing problems with nearly everything major including the heart, brain, lungs, kidneys, skin, joints, and blood cells. Symptoms often mimic other health issues but the most significant marker of the disease is a butterfly shaped rash that oftentimes appears on the sufferer’s face.
You might think that arthritis is something that simply comes with the territory when you age, but the autoimmune disorder can also affect people in their 20s and 30s. Arthritis occurs when the cartilage padding the bones breaks down causing inflammation of the joints. Arthritis is common in both men and women, but women are 3 times as likely to suffer from it.
18. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
You probably haven’t heard of pelvic inflammatory disease, which is exactly why experts are calling it a “silent epidemic.” PID occurs when an infection such as an STD spreads from the vagina to the rest of the reproductive system. This common condition doesn’t always cause symptoms, but when it does they can include abdominal pain, fever, vaginal discharge, and deep pain. If left untreated, PID can lead to fallopian scarring and even infertility.