Due to variations in genes, anatomy, and hormone levels, some diseases attack women more often than men, and vice-versa. However, thinking of diseases that women are more prone to as “women’s diseases” can leave men vulnerable to serious health problems.
Here are seven so-called “women’s diseases” that can also strike men. If you experience symptoms, don’t let your gender stop you from getting treatment.
Osteoporosis reduces the density of bone, making it more vulnerable to fractures. One in three women are at risk, but so are one in five men. Women experience rapid bone loss following menopause, but by 65 to 70 years old, men lose bone mass at about the same rate.
Kidney and thyroid problems, vitamin D deficiency, and prolonged exposure to steroids, cancer therapies, and anti-convulsants put you more at risk. You may not have symptoms, so ask your doctor for a bone density test.
Women get breast cancer more often than men because they have more breast tissue. Although only about one percent of all breast cancers affect men, research shows that incidence is on the rise. Men rarely heed the warning signs, so the cancer is allowed to develop. Therefore, men typically don’t survive as long as women once a diagnosis is finally made.
If you’re over 50, of African-American descent, or obese, you’re more at risk. Watch for any unusual lumps or skin abnormalities in the chest.
The thyroid is a small gland that rests in the middle of the lower neck, where it produces hormones to control metabolism. If it produces too much, hyperthyroidism results. Symptoms include:
- weight loss
- dry, coarse skin and hair
If the thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormones, hypothyroidism results. Symptoms include:
- weight gain
- muscle weakness
- sleep disturbances
As more men feel the pressure to be thin and look good, more are falling victim to eating disorders. Only 10 to 15 percent of people with anorexia or bulimia are male, but the effects can be equally devastating. Men also are less likely to seek treatment, leaving them more at risk for complications such as:
- heart problems
- bone loss
- organ failure
Athletes, obese boys, homosexual and transgender men, and those who are anxious or have perfectionist personalities are more at risk.
Bladder infections are much more common in women, but men can get them, too — particularly men with an enlarged prostate, kidney stones, or an abnormal narrowing of the urethra. Treatment involves antibiotics and is typically very effective, but men need to be aware of the symptoms.
- frequent urination
- cloudy urine or bloody urine
- a strong urge to urinate
- a burning or tingling sensation during urination
- low-grade fever
Women are two times more likely than men to be diagnosed with depression, but that may be because their symptoms are different. Women may feel sad and cry more often, whereas men are more likely to show anger, irritation, frustration, and discouragement.
Men may turn to drugs or alcohol, or engage in risky behavior. They are also more likely to complete suicide if they try it. Because of these differences, many men go undiagnosed. Without treatment, depression is likely to worsen.
- joint swelling and pain
- muscle weakness
- extreme fatigue
- unexplained fever
- hair loss
- leg swelling
- eye puffiness
- mouth sores
- swollen glands
- butterfly-shaped red rash across the bridge of the nose and cheeks.
The disease is treated similarly in both genders. Your doctor may overlook it because it is rare in men. If you have symptoms, ask for testing.
Studies show that men are less likely than women to look after their health. They’re 25 percent less likely to have visited their doctor in the past year, and almost 40 percent more likely to have skipped recommended health screenings. They’re also one and a half times more likely to die from heart disease, cancer, and respiratory diseases, and they die an average of five years earlier than women.
If you’re not feeling right, check with your doctor. By getting the treatments you need, you can beat the odds.