5 Important Women’s Health Issues That Shouldn’t Be Ignored
Even though options like seeing a doctor virtually has grown in recent years, many people still struggle to see their doctor—especially women. Overburdened with responsibilities and tasks in a culture that demands everyone be on and do everything 24/7, making time to see a doctor or other healthcare professional can be challenging. It’s common to think the malady will “go away on its own,” but that’s not always the case. And when it does, that doesn’t necessarily mean the root cause has healed itself.
While some ailments, like the common cold, may not require seeking medical treatment for everyone, there are certain inflictions that happen just to women (or which women suffer from at a higher rate) that shouldn’t be ignored. The fastest, best, and most affordable way to address any ailment is with early diagnosis and treatment. The longer an issue goes unaddressed, the more dangerous it can before. If you’re a woman, don’t ignore these five health issues and their symptoms:
1. Lumps in the breast. Technically, men can also have breast cancer, but it’s largely an ailment suffered by women. Can you recall the last time you performed a self breast-exam? The requirements for annual exams (which should include a breast exam by a professional) keep changing, and it’s not uncommon for a woman to be recommended for an “annual” exam every three years. In some cases, a woman’s romantic partner is the person who discovers a lump. This shouldn’t be the case.
Don’t immediately begin to worry if you do feel something unusual in the breast tissue. Cysts are also common, especially in young women and those undergoing big hormonal changes. Cysts can feel a lot like a dangerous lump, and some women naturally have a lot of these benign, harmless bumps. However, any bump or unusual feeling in the breast is deserving of an immediate appointment with your OBGYN.
2. Signs of depression, especially abusing drugs or alcohol. Alcohol and some drugs are a natural “depressant,” but they also go hand in hand with diagnosable depression. It’s a symbiotic relationship. Drugs and alcohol can feed the depression, which is a chemical imbalance in the brain. At the same time, depression itself can encourage a person to drink or otherwise abuse their body. It’s important that a dual diagnosis is made when that’s the case, and that may require working with a team of doctors including someone like a general physician as well as a mental health expert. Depression impacts women at a higher rate than men, but anyone who thinks they may be depressed should immediately seek help. Management is possible.
3. Moles that seem irregular or have changed. Skin cancer can happen to anyone, but women are traditionally more likely to expose their skin to UV rays (whether the sun’s or in a tanning booth). Although not all skin cancer is paired with irregular moles, it’s a very common symptom. Keep an eye on all your moles and look for irregular borders, moles that change size or shape at a fast pace, and moles that don’t have the same hue throughout. Cancerous moles can be any color, including black, brown, pink, and even white. Melanoma is the deadliest form of any cancer, but also the easiest to treat when caught early.
Schedule an annual skin exam so a dermatologist can keep an eye on your skin. It’s impossible to see all parts of the body (like the back), and nobody should put such a responsibility on a friend or loved one. Plus, dermatologists can map moles and tell when changes have occurred. Some people are more prone to skin cancer, including those who are fair, those who have a lot of moles, those who have exposed their skin to the sun (especially in intense bursts that have led to sunburns), and those who have a genetic predisposition to skin cancer. However, any person can be diagnosed with skin cancer. It’s just as important to get an annual mole check as it is to see your GP regularly.
4. Signs of heart disease. Heart disease is the number one killer of women in America, and odds of heart disease can be increased by stress, carrying excess weight, and genetic markers. There are early signs of heart disease (or in some cases pre-heart disease) to watch out for. This includes chest discomfort, which is the most common sign that there’s something wrong with the heart—however, it can also be a variety of non-harmful issues. Still, if you experience any kind of chest discomfort, it’s important to see a doctor right away.
Nausea, indigestion, dizziness, pain in the jaw/throat, and stomach pains can also be markers of heart disease. Obviously, these common symptoms can also be a sign of many other things. The absolute best way to stay on top of heart disease is to see your doctor regularly. Many lifestyle changes can be made to reduce your risk of heart disease, as well as early treatments that can nip early heart disease in the bud.
5. Eating disorder signs. Eating disorders can be experienced by anyone, including men, but women remain the primary demographic of this mental disorder. It’s the deadliest, most under-diagnosed, or mental disorders. Often, the person has been suffering from the disease for a long stretch of time before diagnosis. This is due to a number of factors, starting with the fact that the person does not want to seek out treatment in early stages. There are numerous types of eating disorders beyond the well-known anorexia and bulimia. There’s also binge eating disorder, orthorexia (obsession with healthy eating), bulimia via excessive exercise, and night eating disorder.
Either dieting or eating to extremes comes with an array of permanent damages. For those who restrict, the most common cause of death isn’t starvation. It’s actually quite rare for a person to be able to willingly starve themselves to death. Instead, the most common causes of death are broken hips (the bones become very brittle) and heart attacks. Getting help early and consistently is key to addressing this mental disorder, which experts agree is much more prevalent than it seems.
Women often pour from an empty cup, but those empty cups come with consequences. It’s critical to practice self-care, and that means seeking medical help as soon as an issue or worry pops up. Prevention and early treatment are vital and part of a healthy life.