Although men and women share symptoms and treatment of myriad diseases, there are some ailments unique to the female gender, chiefly cancers of the reproductive system and breasts.
It’s acknowledged, however, that the primary task of successful aging for women entails pushing back other conditions and concerns that also affect them most intimately. Some of those conditions include:
Osteopenia and osteoporosis: With time, the bones become weaker, more brittle, and likely to fracture. Doctors can determine the amount of bone lost with a bone mineral density (BMD) test. Results are expressed as a T-score, which is based on a comparison to the bones of a healthy 30 year old. People with normal bone density have a T-score that is within 1 standard deviation (SD) of a 30 year old’s score. A score 1 to 2.5 SD below a young adult’s (-1 to -2.5 SD) is considered low bone mass, or osteopenia. Osteoporosis is diagnosed in anyone with a score of -2.5 SD or lower. People with osteoporosis need to take medicines such as bisphosphonates to strengthen their bones and prevent fractures.
Ovarian cancer is the most deadly reproductive cancer in women. Often, it’s caught at a late stage because no screening tests exist. Ovarian cancer symptoms include abdominal bloating, pain in the abdomen or pelvis, and a rapid feeling of fullness while eating.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (or COPD, for short) is a lung condition that makes it harder to breathe. COPD is not one, but two conditions: emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
Depression goes far beyond the occasional feelings of sadness. The depression definition that mental health experts use is a persistently down mood and loss of interest that affects a person’s day-to-day life, and can even lead to thoughts of suicide. The condition is also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, and it affects nearly 15 million Americans. Although depression typically starts in the 20s or 30s, it can affect people of all ages. Older adults are particularly vulnerable to depression because of illness and the loss of loved ones.
With diabetes, both genes and environmental factors play a role. Being overweight can also increase the risk of getting type 2 diabetes, because excess fat increases the body’s resistance to insulin.How do you know you have this condition? Increased thirst, frequent urination, and hunger are all signs of diabetes. Other diabetes symptoms include unexplained weight loss, fatigue, frequent infections, and blurred vision.
Along with a lack of sleep and overwork, fatigue causes range from illnesses to medications. Anemia, thyroid disease, and heart failure are all common conditions linked to fatigue. Taking certain medicines—including antidepressants, blood pressure medicines, and anti-anxiety drugs—can also contribute to fatigue.
Chronic fatigue syndrome causes consistent fatigue that doesn’t go away, along with vague complaints such as muscle aches, headaches, memory loss, disrupted sleep, a sore throat, and joint or muscle pain.
Glaucoma is another common vision problem that affects older adults. In glaucoma, a buildup of pressure inside the eye damages the optic nerve and can eventually cause blindness. Looking for glaucoma symptoms alone won’t always catch the disease in time, because the condition often causes no pain or vision loss until the damage is already significant.
Dementia symptoms vary by type, but can include difficulty remembering names and events, trouble communicating, depression, poor judgment, confusion, behavior changes, and sleep disturbances. People who are suspected of having dementia will undergo a series of dementia tests, or Alzheimer’s tests, to determine whether they have lost memory and cognitive function. Doctors will ask the person and his or her family member about any memory problems and trouble completing daily activities. Other tests will be done to evaluate memory, attention, problem-solving, and language skills. During these tests, the health care provider will ask the person a series of questions and assign tasks, such as remembering the names of common objects or drawing a face of a clock. Brain scans such as computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or positron emission tomography (PET) may also be done to assess brain structure and function.
Migraine headaches are a common source of chronic pain, affecting 1 in 10 Americans, most of them women. These are not just everyday headaches. Migraine symptoms also include nausea, vomiting, light and sound sensitivity, auras, and other visual disturbances. Because doctors still don’t fully understand what causes migraines, they haven’t been able to develop a cure for this condition. Treatments aim to reduce the frequency of migraine attacks and relieve symptoms when they start.
Fibromyalgia is another poorly understood condition. The estimated 5 million Americans who have this condition experience fatigue and pain in particular spots around their body. Other fibromyalgia symptoms include sleep problems, headaches, sensitivity to heat and cold, bowel issues, and memory problems.
Everyone feels stressed out from time to time. The leading causes of Americans’ stress include finances, work, family responsibilities, and health issues. Constant stress can lead to worry or anxiety. In people with anxiety disorders, the worry is constant, and detrimental.
According to the National Institutes of Health, osteoporosis is a disease that weakens bones and makes them more prone to breaks. To determine whether you have osteoporosis, your physician will order a bone mineral density test to take a “snapshot” of your bone health. The test can identify osteoporosis and … Read More
What is osteoporosis? Think of it this way: Healthy bones are in a state of continuous breakdown and rebuilding. This process, called remodeling, is performed by specialized cells called osteoclasts, which resorb (break down) old bone, and osteoblasts, which form new bone.
In young adults, remodeling happens in a balanced fashion … Read More
Endometrial cancer is the most common cancer of the female reproductive system. Endometrial and other cancers of the uterine body (the upper part of the uterus) are newly diagnosed in more than 54,000 women each year, according to The American Cancer Society. Almost all uterine cancers originate in the inner … Read More
In simplest terms, a heart attack occurs when one of the arteries that supplies blood to the heart becomes too blocked to allow blood to reach the heart muscle. Given that the problem lies in the middle of the heart, it would make sense that chest pain would be an … Read More
Getting a cancer diagnosis is distressing enough, but for some people, concerns about treating the cancer with chemotherapy can be equally as troubling.
A woman might worry about how chemotherapy for breast cancer may cause hair loss or otherwise alter her appearance. Or a man might be concerned about how chemotherapy … Read More
In 2013, actress Angelina Jolie announced that she had both of her breasts removed after genetic testing indicated she was at increased risk of breast cancer. Her announcement came about five years after actress Christina Applegate underwent a double mastectomy after being diagnosed with early-stage cancer in one breast. Media … Read More
Ovarian cancer is devious and deceptive. As it first develops in a woman’s body, it may offer up no indication of its presence. Oftentimes, it doesn’t reveal itself until after it’s progressed, and when it does, many times its warning signs still go unrecognized.
That’s because ovarian cancer symptoms tend to … Read More
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 13 million women—or roughly 11 percent of all women in the U.S.—suffer from diabetes. What characterizes diabetes symptoms in women? A number of factors can come into play. First, let’s answer the question “What is diabetes?”
Diabetes is a … Read More
The body’s stress response, the one that prepares us to “fight or flight” in the face of an imminent danger (such as a wild animal or mugger), is activated more readily in women than men and lasts longer. This may help explain why anxiety symptoms in women are twice as … Read More
Three-quarters of women are thought to suffer from breast pain (also called “mastalgia”) at some point in their lives, and many automatically assume that it could red-flag breast cancer. However, breast pain isn’t typically a symptom of breast cancer.
Breast pain can manifest as slight tenderness, a dull, heavy ache, or … Read More