By DrAlka Kumar, Consultant Gynecologist, S.L. Raheja Hospital- A Fortis Associate
Women and men share most of the common illnesses; there are few distinctions that set them apart from each other. The Health of a woman can be differentiated and deserves special attention. On the observance of International Women’s Day, Dr. Alka Kumar, Consultant Gynecologist, S.L. Raheja Hospital- A Fortis Associate, illustrates the 5 common illnesses seen largely in women.
- Menstrual Irregularities:
These can have various presentations right from Puberty to Menopause. Periods may be prolonged, heavy, scanty, delayed or frequent. Often, this can be physiological; however, it is important to rule out any underlying medical cause. In young adolescent girls, the cause of an irregular bleeding pattern could be a Polycystic Ovarian Disease, Thyroid disease or simple Ovarian Cyst or bleeding disorder. In reproductive age, often the menstrual irregularities are known as Dysfunctional Uterine Bleeding (DUB). Common causes are Uterine Polyps, Endometriosis, Adenomyosis, Fibroids, Ovarian Cysts, and Diabetes and Thyroid Disease. In Peri-menopausal and menopausal age groups, although the above pathologies may be the cause, it is important to rule out malignancies. Cancers of the Cervix and Endometrium often present with irregular bleeding patterns, thus it is important to seek medical advice at the earliest.
- Urinary Tract Infection:
Infection of the Bladder (Cystitis) and Urethra are more common in women andare often caused by E.coli which is found usually in the digestive system. Short Urethra and proximity to the Anus and Rectum (where the bacteria is logged), make women prone to UTIs. It is often seen after pelvic and vaginal surgeries, and sometimes after intercourse. If left untreated the infection can reach the Kidneys. Common symptoms of UTI are burning while urination, frequent and intense urge to urinate, dark color urine , pain in the lower back and abdomen and fever. Urinary Tract Infection is easily treated by antibiotics, however it is important not to self-medicate.
Besides Breast and Cervical Cancer, cancers of the Endometrium, Ovary, Colon, Lung and Skin are also seen often in women; most of these are detected in 4th or 5th decade of life. Breast Cancer can be diagnosed early by routine self-breast examination and mammography every 2-3yrs. Similarly, a routine ultrasound of the pelvis can pick up Endometrial and Ovarian pathologies. Pap smear is a simple test for early diagnoses of Cervical Cancer. It is important that women report any irregular menstrual bleeding pattern or lump in the breast to their Gynecologist. Cancers of Breast and Ovary has strong genetic predisposition; genetic tests BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 are available for these.
- Anxiety and Depression:
Depression in women is common and they are at a higher risk than men. Clinical Depression may be associated with a feeling of sadness, hopelessness, low self-esteem and low grade fatigue. A woman may complain of restlessness, irritability, worthlessness, excessive crying or chronic headache, digestive disorders and chronic pain. Depression is more common in women during puberty, pregnancy andmenopause due to hormonal changes during this period. It manifests as Premenstrual Syndromein young, post-partum Depression after child birth, or anxiety disorder in menopause and peri-menopausal period. Causes could be manifold:
- Strong family and genetic history
- Stress at schools, job, marital conflicts etc.
- Loss of parent/social support such as divorce
- Sexual abuse in childhood etc.
Recognizing symptoms and early treatment is always beneficial.
It negatively impacts the health of women in many ways. An obese woman has high risk of Diabetes, Hypertension, Cardiovascular Diseases and early Osteoarthritis of knees. In younger age it is a cause of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), menstrual irregularities, difficult antenatal period and complication during child birth; it can also be a cause of infertility. Obese women are more prone to multiple Cancers such as Endometrial, Breast, Cervical and may be Ovarian Cancer. Depression and low self-esteem are also commonly seen in obese. Although the ultimate body weight is a result of genetics, metabolism, environment, behavior and culture.The main cause is eating too much and moving too little. It is important to prevent obesity by keeping a healthy diet from womb to womb. The expectant mother should eat healthy during antenatal and post-natal period, breast feed for at least 6months to 1year. Children should be encouraged to indulge sports and outdoor programs, and the elderly should definitely walk for at least 1/2 hour daily.