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Diseases most common in women

Cokeitha Gaddist
Healthy Lifestyles Columnist

Many diseases affect both women and men alike but some diseases occur in women at a higher rate. For example, gallstones are three to four times more common in women than in men. About 18% of women compared to 6% of men suffer migraine headaches which is a ratio of three females to one male. Other conditions which plague women more often than men include irritable bowel syndrome and urinary tract infections.

However, the diseases that are significantly more common in women than men are autoimmune diseases. An estimated 70% of people living with autoimmune disorders are women. Autoimmune diseases are a group of disorders in which the immune system attacks the body and destroys or alters the body tissues. It affects at least 12 million Americans and 75% of them are women. There are more than a dozen different types of autoimmune diseases but the disorders that affect significantly more women than men are lupus, multiple sclerosis (MS), thyroid disease and Type 1 diabetes. As a group, these disorders make up the fourth-largest cause of disability among women.

The majority of women living with autoimmune disorders are of childbearing age. In fact, autoimmune diseases are among the leading causes of death with severe long-term disability in girls and women 65 years of age and younger. One autoimmune disorder, rheumatoid arthritis, affects approximately 1.3 million Americans with 2/3 of the sufferers being women.

Why autoimmune diseases are more common in women than men is actually far from fully understood. It is unknown exactly what causes the body to turn on itself, but genetics, hormonal levels, and environmental factors are suspected. In previous years, scientists researching the cause primarily focused on the differences in hormone levels between men and women. They believe the genetic differences between men and women are clearly one of the reasons for the higher incidence of autoimmune diseases in females.

Researchers are investigating why women are more susceptible in hopes of finding new ways to prevent, treat, and possibly even cure these diseases. Some clinical trials currently underway are looking at how women with autoimmune diseases will respond during pregnancy when hormone levels are heightened.

Since autoimmune diseases are not very well understood, pinpointing specific risk factors is difficult. Symptoms can also be nonspecific presenting a slew of health problems hindering proper diagnosis. However, if you feel in your body that something is wrong, it’s important to become your own health advocate and see your doctor immediately. It is very common for women to make multiple doctor visits, sometimes to multiple doctors to finally get a diagnosis this may take months or even years to get answers. Therefore keep track of your symptoms and clearly communicate them to your doctors and insist that they take your symptoms seriously.


Special to The Colletonian (612 Posts)