Womens Health Issues

Many health problems affect both men and women. However the manner in which they affect women may vary. There are also some conditions that occur more commonly in women such as gall stones, urinary tract infections, migraine and autoimmune disorders. Still other conditions such as menstruation and pregnancy related issues are unique to women. Here we examine four ailments that occur commonly in women; breast cancer, polycystic ovarian disease, osteoporosis and depression.

Symptoms of Women Health Issues

Breast cancer occurs in the cells present in the lining, lobules and draining ducts of the breasts. It is the most common type of cancer that occurs in women and affects a large number of women across the world. Breast cancer in its early stages does not produce any symptoms.

  • In most cases, the cancer is detected before any symptoms occur when a lump is discovered in the breast.
  • Persistent lumps that develop under the arms or near the collarbone may be indicative of cancer.
  • As the disease progresses, symptoms such as inversion of the nipple, discharge and skin changes may occur.
  • Not all lumps found in the breasts are cancerous, but it is imperative to have them examined by a doctor at the earliest.

Polycystic ovarian disease is a condition that affects the balance of female sex hormones in women. This may lead to:

  • The development of cysts in the ovaries
  • Changes in the menstrual cycle
  • Skin changes such as darkening or thickening of the skin
  • Chances of getting pregnant may also get affected
  • Symptoms of this condition also include irregular periods, and
  • Development of male characteristics.
  • Osteoporosis is characterized by weakening of the bones. The bones become soft and fragile and are vulnerable to sprains and fractures. Common symptoms of osteoporosis in women include:

    • Fractures
    • Swelling
    • Muscle aches
    • Posture problems
    • Fatigue and tooth loss.

    Depression is a common mental health problem that occurs in women. Studies have shown that women are twice as likely to become clinically depressed as men. Depression is a mood disorder that results in feelings of sadness and hopelessness. The symptoms may range from mild to severe. Some of the milder symptoms of depression include low appetite, sleeping trouble, low self esteem and apathy. Severe depression symptoms may include thoughts of death or suicide attempts. Some of the other symptoms of depression in women include restlessness, feelings of guilt, pessimism, weight gain or weight loss, fatigue and excessive crying. Physical symptoms such as headaches and digestive problems may also occur in some cases.

    Causes of Women Health Issues

    Breast Cancer: The cells of the breasts may become cancerous when certain alterations occur in the DNA. In some cases inherited DNA mutations may make a woman more vulnerable to developing breast cancer. The risk of breast cancer also increases with age. There is also a possibility for women who have already had cancer to develop a new cancer in another part of the breast. This is different from recurrent cancer or cancer that has spread. Other risk factors for breast cancer include alcohol consumption, smoking and a poor diet.

    Polycystic Ovarian Disease: Polycystic ovarian disease occurs when there is an imbalance in the female sex hormones. The exact causes of such imbalances are unknown. Due to this condition, the eggs are not released from the ovaries and tiny cysts are formed. This can affect fertility. In many cases, this disease runs in families.

    Osteoporosis: The most common cause of osteoporosis in women is estrogen deficiency. Bone loss usually occurs in women after menopause. This is the time when there is a significant drop in estrogen levels. Younger women who experience absence of menstruation may also be at risk for osteoporosis. The bones are also negatively affected when there is inadequate intake of calcium. The body utilizes calcium and phosphate for bone production during youth. As individuals age, these minerals are reabsorbed in the body from the bones and this causes weakening of the bones. As a result the bones may become brittle and prone to breaking.

    Depression: Depression is more likely to occur in women possibly due to the hormonal changes that keep taking place during a woman’s lifetime. These changes occur during puberty, pregnancy and menopause. Monthly menstruation also involves hormonal changes and these could lead to mood swings, anxiety and depression. There are some risk factors that can make women more prone to depression. These include history of mood disorders in the family, loss of a parent before 10 years of age, lack of social support, physical or sexual abuse in childhood and previous episodes of mood disorders in the early reproductive years. Prolonged use of certain medications also increases the risk of depression. Some women develop postpartum depression, which occurs after the birth of a baby. Depression can also occur as part of bipolar disorder or seasonal affective disorder.

    Remedies for Women Health Issues

    Treatment for breast cancer is decided by the doctor after discussion with the patient. The treatment will depend upon the stage of cancer, the age of the patient and individual preferences.

    • In most cases, surgical intervention is necessary to remove the cancer cells.
    • In addition, other treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy and hormone therapy may also be employed.
    • Alternative therapies such as acupuncture, massage and use of immunity boosting herbs is known to help in providing relief from breast cancer symptoms. But these treatments should be used only after consultation with a doctor.
    • Polycystic ovarian disease is usually treated with birth control pills as they help to correct hormonal imbalances and regulate the menstrual periods.
    • Herbal treatments are known to help in treating polycystic ovarian disease. The herb Dong Quai is known to be beneficial in regulating the levels of estrogen and progesterone.
    • Chaste tree is also helpful as it has a positive effect on the functioning of the pituitary gland.
    • Saw palmetto may be used to control growth of facial hair that sometimes occurs due to the disease.

    Osteoporosis treatment is aimed at alleviating pain, reducing bone loss and preventing fractures. The treatment may include medications and various lifestyle changes.

    • Medication is focused on reducing the rate of bone loss and also controlling bone pain.
    • Gentle exercises are also recommended for people with osteoporosis as it reduces the risk of sprains and fractures.

    Depression can be treated in various ways. Medications such as antidepressants are commonly prescribed for women with depression. It is essential to closely monitor individuals taking antidepressants. Treatment also involves:

    • Psychotherapy, which consists of supportive counseling, cognitive therapy and problem solving therapy. In supportive counseling, the feelings of sadness and hopelessness are addressed. In cognitive therapy, pessimistic thinking patterns that lead to depression are dealt with. Problem solving therapy involves teaching the individual coping skills so that she is able to make changes in the areas of her life which are creating stress and depression.
    • Natural remedies for depression involve the use of herbs that help to relieve tension and stress. Herbs such as lavender and chamomile are known for their calming properties and may be consumed in the form of tea.
    • Holy basil is also known to be beneficial in alleviating depression and may be combined with sage to prepare a stress-relieving herbal tea.

    Diet for Women Health Issues

    Here are some diet tips that should be helpful to most women:

    • A diet that consists of plenty of vegetables and omega 3 fatty acids is known to help in reducing the risk or spread of breast cancer. Avoiding red meat and alcohol is also beneficial.
    • The diet for polycystic ovarian disease must consist of high fiber foods and healthy fats. Refined and sugar carbohydrate foods should be restricted and a regular exercise regimen must be followed.
    • The osteoporosis diet should include a minimum of 1200 milligrams of calcium daily. Intake of vitamin D is also essential as it helps in calcium absorption. High calcium foods to include in your regular diet are dairy products, leafy green vegetables, salmon and tofu.
    • Dietary deficiencies can also play havoc with your emotions and hormonal levels, resulting in severe mood swings and depression. Inadequate intake of the B vitamins is known to result in poor regulation of brain chemicals involved in mood changes. Research has also indicated that individuals with depression respond better to treatment when they had increased amounts of vitamin B12 in the blood. Intake of vitamin B supplements may help to enhance the effects of antidepressant medication. Intake of folic acid is also recommended for women with depression as it is involved in the release of serotonin in the brain.

      Suggestion for Women Health Issues

      • Regular screening for breast cancer through self examination, clinical examination and mammography is helpful in detecting problems in the early stages.
      • Women with polycystic ovarian disease may be at a higher risk for developing diabetes and hence yearly screening of blood sugar levels is important.
      • Consumption of alcohol and caffeinated beverages should be avoided as they inhibit the absorption of alcohol and lead to further bone loss.
      • Depression may be triggered by certain medications such as mood stabilizers and antipsychotic drugs. These medications have sedative effects that can impair cognitive abilities and make an individual feel less motivated and withdrawn.
      Womens Health Issues - Frequently asked questions