What You Need to Know About Women’s Health

What You Need to Know About Women’s Health

Women are notorious for looking after everyone except themselves. It is a dangerous habit to fall into, since many health problems are completely preventable or at least treatable when caught early enough. Since women often avoid the doctor and don’t seek medical help until their symptoms are a real problem, it is often too late for a good prognosis.

Going in for regular exams is vital to staying healthy, for women around the world. So is getting the recommended tests and exams such as a mammogram or Pap smear. These are valuable tools that can help save lives, yet too many women don’t have them done because they feel uncomfortable with the procedure. It might be a good idea to remember that a little discomfort is nothing compared to months of radiation or chemotherapy!

Finding the Right Doctor is Key

One of the most common issues with health problems for women is the old-fashioned approach of many doctors. It was taught, not so long ago, in medical schools, that the majority of women’s “health issues” were really all in the head. Many doctors still feel this way and are more likely to dismiss potentially risky symptoms in women than they would in men.

To avoid being short-changed in the health department, look for a doctor that will listen to you and take you seriously. If you aren’t comfortable talking with your general practitioner or gynecologist, find a new one. When you are comfortable with your doctor, you are more likely to see her for any concerns, instead of waiting until the problem gets worse.

A good doctor will listen to you without jumping to conclusions or rushing you. If you feel that your gynecologist is only interested in getting you out the door so her next patient can come in and she can earn a bit more, start looking for a new doctor. Talk to friends about doctors they trust and don’t feel bad about going in for a checkup, just to meet the doctor and see if you like him.

What Women Are Missing

It’s all too common to have a twinge or a pain or notice something about your body that isn’t quite right. What you do about it could mean the difference between life and death down the road! While not all health issues are quite that serious, there are good reasons to see your doctor and to get tested if you notice something suspicious. Here are some of the most often ignored problems in women today.

Urinary Tract Infections

Through simple physiology, women are more prone to urinary tract infections (UTIs) than men. With shorter urethras, it is easier for bacteria to migrate from outside the body to the bladder. There are several factors that can improve your chances of getting an infection, such as sex, where the movement can actually push bacteria up the urethra.

Another common cause of UTIs is pregnancy, since this shortens the urethra more. Also, waiting to urinate can allow bacteria to build up to dangerous levels in the bladder, both in pregnant and non-pregnant women. Once the bacteria are in the bladder, they may also spread throughout the urinary tract, including to the kidneys.

Most women will have experienced at least one bladder infection and will easily recognize the symptoms. The urge to pee, followed by sharp, stabbing pains and very little urine release are the most predominant symptoms. You may also have pain in your lower pelvis, back and sides. If the infection has spread to your kidneys, nausea, vomiting and back pain are most common. There may also be blood in the urine.

So, what is the big deal with UTIs? If left untreated, they can turn into kidney infections which can cause lasting damage. Also, unchecked infections during pregnancy may result in premature birth or low birth weight babies. It is extremely important to get correctly diagnosed and treated. The usual treatment for a UTI is 7-10 days of antibiotics, which need to be finished, even if the symptoms go away. Not finishing the course of prescribed medicine can result in a recurrence of antibiotic resistant infections.

Breast Cancer

Do you do your monthly self-exam for lumps in the breasts? If not, it’s time to start. When breast cancer are detected early enough, it is highly treatable, but your chances of a happy ending diminish the longer you wait. Many women who do self-exams are able to find lumps before they grow too big and can undergo successful treatment early on.

Breast exams are so simple, there is no excuse not to do them. Choose a time shortly after your period ends, since this is when your breasts will be at their softest. While in the shower or shirtless, raise one arm above your head and use the other hand to press and massage in a circular motion around the breast, including the tissue under the arm and up toward the shoulder. After a couple of months, you will know exactly what your breast tissue should feel like and any abnormalities will be easy to spot.

If you notice a lump, however small, that wasn’t there before, see your doctor immediately to rule out the possibility of cancer. There are many other causes of lumps in the breast, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Also, don’t rely only on touch to tell you if something is wrong. Strange pains in your chest and breasts, dimpled or puckered skin, discoloration or any other abnormality could be a sign that something is wrong. Visually inspect yourself as well and talk to your doctor if you notice anything odd.

Toxic Shock Syndrome

You were probably scared by your mother with this one when you were younger. The most common cause of this potentially lethal bacterial infection is leaving tampons in too long, but what most people don’t realize is that it can affect anyone of any age, menstruating or not. Other risk factors include surgery and open wounds.

Toxic shock syndrome is caused by either staph or strep bacteria, which usually enter the body through a small cut or opening. This syndrome became famous back in 1980 when a brand of tampons caused an outbreak of toxic shock syndrome. Since then, the majority of women assume that if they don’t use super absorbent tampons, they are safe.

It’s a good idea to know what the symptoms are, since the infection spreads quickly and can be deadly. The symptoms of toxic shock syndrome often appear very suddenly, which is a symptom in and of itself.

The most typical symptoms for this syndrome are sudden high fever, vomiting or diarrhea, a red rash (usually on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet), muscle aches, confusion, headaches and seizures. Any of these experienced after surgery or being cut is reason to visit the doctor, just to rule out any serious problems.

Strokes

Did you know that a sudden attack of hiccups, in conjunction with other symptoms, could mean you are suffering from a stroke? Probably not, since this is just one of several symptoms that are unique to women.

While women usually experience some classic signs of a stroke, numbness on one side of the body, blurred or double vision, confusion and difficulty understanding what people are saying, they may also exhibit some symptoms that don’t occur in male stroke victims. If caught in time, there is a very good chance that a patient will be able to recover from a stroke, but if no one realizes what the signs are until it’s too late, things can turn out very differently.

Women have a seizure, sudden fatigue or nausea, sudden racing heart, shortness of breath and may faint during a stroke. Any one of these could be passed off as a less serious condition, so if you notice any of these signs in yourself or someone else, it is important to check for a stroke. You can do this by going through the acronym FAST:

F – Face. Ask the person to smile and note if one side of the mouth turns down.
A – Arms. When the person raises her arms, does one slowly move downwards on its own?
S – Speech. Ask the woman to repeat a simple sentence. Are her words slurred?
T – Time. Get to the nearest ER immediately if you or anyone else has the above symptoms. Time is of the essence, since rapid treatment can prevent permanent brain damage.

The majority of women will present with the normal symptoms of a stroke in addition to one or two gender-specific ones. That’s why the FAST test is so useful, it will help determine if the woman is suffering from a stroke or not, regardless of her other symptoms.

Being aware of the medical conditions that are most often overlooked by women is the first step to not becoming a victim of one of them. Now that you know what to look for, make sure you keep an eye out for possible problems, and seek medical help before it turns into a serious issue. Don’t let yourself become just another statistic.