Overall health status of women is a big concern, world wide. With the same kind of available health facilities, economic status, women’s health takes a backstage due to ignorance and various social factors.
Women are different from men in their physical, mental make up and hormonal status. This makes them more vulnerable to certain health problems which are often not understood.
Body ache or joint pain is a fairly common problem among women.
Women across the globe are suffering or have suffered from body ache sometime or other.
There being no visible “big” disease, they are often misunderstood to be malingering by their men folk and also by some insensitive medical personnel.
But the pain is real due to many causes. Adolescence, pregnancy and breast feeding, menopause, demand for iron and calcium is increased in the body for all these phases. If this demand is not met there is chronic anaemia and softening of bones or osteoporosis.
Blood loss during menses also contributes to it. This chronic nutritional deficiency causes pain in the joints and various body parts, aggravated by movements.
Women doing physical labour are worst affected and there is no respite from it as they have to work to meet their daily needs. But women from higher strata also suffer.
Women tend to be negligent towards their nutrition. In spite of there being plenty, a woman may not take a balanced diet.
Ironically in most communities of the world, no one bothers about the feeding of a woman in the family. Young girls suffer from eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia.
These are factors which contribute to chronic nutritional deficiency and body pain.
Disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus also occur more in young women, thus making them suffer from chronic joint pains.
Because of their peculiar anatomical make up, women are more prone than men to develop urinary tract infections.
This can cause burning during urination and backache. They are also more susceptible to acquire sexually transmitted diseases and HIV due to anatomical and biological causes.
Trauma to the birth canal during child birth is a common cause for urinary incontinence which becomes a very embarrassing problem.
Multiple pregnancies and hormonal changes weaken the support system of the uterus which leads to prolapsed of the uterus in later life making one prone to infections and backache later in life.
Many women also suffer from depression after child birth.
Menopause itself creates a lot of physical and mental problems for women.
Women at this age suffer from hot flushes, palpitations, body pains due to hormonal changes. Due to diminished estrogen levels, there is dryness of the external genital parts causing itching.
This causes much discomfort and embarrassment to the sufferer. Depression is very common in this age. Sense of loss of feminity, reduced attention by partners, sense of loneliness, e.t.c., are many factors which affect the mental health of women in this age.
Up to menopause, women are protected from hypertension and coronary artery disease due to female sex hormones. After menopause, they are as much at risk as their male counterparts.
Studies show that fewer interventions like coronary angiography and by pass are done in women as compared to men. This is because woman and even their families avoid spending time and money on their health.
Prevalence of diabetes mellitus is also more in women both in young and post menopausal women.
This is due to obesity, gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy).
Breast cancer is very well known to be more in women.
While taking treatment for the common disorders, women have a much higher incidence of adverse drug reactions due to the medicines.
This is due to the lower body weight, smaller organs, more body fat and less total body water in men as compared to women.
To summarize I can say that women should be educated about their peculiar health problems. Improvement in their health status is as necessary as improvement in social and economic status.
A healthy woman can contribute much more to her family’s betterment and also to the society. Therefore health issues of women should be given due attention by all concerned.
The author is specialist in internal medicine –Ruhengeri Hospital
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