Following are some of the key chronic conditions that impact women (in alphabetical order).
Most asthma sufferers over the age of 15 are women, likely due to hormones. In women, asthma is often more severe leading to more visits to health providers and hospitals. Asthma is caused by exposure to small particles such as pollen, dust mites or cigarette smoke, which promotes a reaction by the body. The ability to breath is reduced as the airway becomes tight and inflamed producing sticky mucous. This condition can be managed so that a person can live an ordinary life.
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
Having a BPD diagnosis or trait is associated with having difficulty managing emotions and impulses, and having specific problems in interpersonal relationships. BPD is difficult to diagnose because many of the symptoms overlap with other mental health conditions but BPD is a very treatable condition. The most relevant treatment is dialectic behavioural therapy.
Cancer can occur at any stage of life for women. Cancer is where cells become abnormal and grow into something that invades healthy organs. While, women may get cancer in any organ, they are more likely to get breast and gynaecological cancers. Cancer has a significant impact on a woman and her family, and the treatment options can range from mild to severe.
Many women experience chronic pain, which is described as pain that persists for more than six months. This can be both a symptom of other conditions and a condition itself. Women may be less likely to be believed about their pain, or treated differently.
Chronic fatigue syndrome/ ME
This condition is two to four times more likely to impact women. It is not fully understood and is categorised by debilitating fatigue and muscle weakness. It can take over a person’s life and can range from mild to severe. There are limited treatment options, but management of symptoms is possible.
This condition predominantly impacts women. It is an auto-immune disease that attacks gluten (found in wheat, barley, rye and sometimes oats) and indirectly, the gastrointestinal cells and this causes inflammation and damage. Symptoms can include bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal pain. It can lead to issues such as iron and zinc deficiency, lactose intolerance, kidney disease, osteoporosis, osteopenia, and can reduce infertility and increases risk of cancer.
This is a hereditary condition where mucous builds up in the lungs and bacteria grow causing infection and lung scaring. It also effects the digestive tract, and reproductive organs. Studies show that women are impacted more by cystic fibrosis than men, which may be due to hormones increasing bacterial growth. Women may also experience vaginal infection from increased steroid use, stress incontinence with CF weakening pelvic floor muscles, and absent periods due to poor nutrition or malnutrition.
Women are more likely to get dementia then men, and this is not necessarily linked to age. Dementia is an umbrella term for about 100 different types of conditions. The causes of dementia are from scar formation in the brain. The impacts on women are severe, starting with memory loss and verbal issues to loss of ability to feed and walk resulting in a loss of independence.
Depression and Anxiety
Many women experience depression and anxiety, with 1 in 6 women experiencing depression over their lifetime and 1 in 3 experiencing anxiety. And there is an increased chance during pregnancy and the year following the birth of a baby. Women are often busy looking after others and may neglect their own mental health. Depression and anxiety may be a condition on it’s own but many women also experience them with other conditions. It is important to find that you’re not alone and that there is plenty of resources to help you.
Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses. This condition disproportionately impacts women, with 15% of women experience an eating disorder in their lifetime. Eating disorders involve a disproportionate concern about weight or body shape leading to restrictive eating behaviours.
This is a genetic condition where the connective tissue in the body is more plyable and stretchy. Symptoms include joint hypermobility, skin hyperextensibility, and tissue fragility causing pain and joint dislocation. EDS, is a hidden condition which predominantly impacts women, and may remain undiagnosed and misdiagnosed for many years. While Ehlers-Danlos syndrome can’t be treated, the symptoms can usually be managed.
This is a condition that impacts women (and those with female reproductive system). Endometriosis is caused when endometrial tissue spreads to other tissues, which can cause adhesions and pain during menstruation. The tissue is usually found in the pelvic region like the bowel or bladder but has been found in the brain and lungs. This painful and hidden condition is experienced by around 10% of women in Australia. It can take up to 7 to 12 years to diagnose it.
Epilepsy is a condition indicated by the occurrence of seizures. Women may be impacted differently due to hormones, which can affect the frequency of seizures around menstruation. Some women report that hormonal contraception can impact on their seizures. Epilepsy is different from one person to the next, and managing and coping with the condition is different for everyone.
Heart disease/heart attacks
Heart attacks are one of the leading causes of death in women, and it is often under diagnosed which leads to reduced treatment. This is because health promotion around heart disease and the symptoms of heart attacks sometimes do not often make the distinction between men and women.
Irritable bowel syndrome is more common in women. This uncomfortable chronic condition can range from mild to very severe gastrointestinal symptoms such as constipation, bloating and diarrhea. It can impact on a women’s quality of life, lead to depression, is difficult to diagnose and can be related to other conditions like endometriosis. Treatment is usually focussed on lifestyle and food to help control symptoms.
Chronic kidney disease is increasing in women. Kidney disease is not reversible, but if caught early, there are treatments and steps that can be taken to improve your kidney health. Women experience additional issues with their kidney disease such as irregular periods, sexual dysfunction, pregnancy, bone disease, and depression.
This condition impacts 11% of women in Australia. This hereditary condition involves painful fatty deposits occurring on legs and arms, and may be found in women of all shapes and sizes. As this condition involves fat, women are often asked to lose weight, however exercise and diet have little effect. This can be debilitating for women, as they are often blamed for being overweight and are misdiagnosed with obesity. Symptoms vary, and not all women will experience all symptoms.
This condition is often an undiagnosed and complicated condition that is the third stage of a bacterial infection after being bitten by a tick. Lyme disease is relatively misunderstood, because research shows that most of the time the Lyme disease is present, the bacteria is no longer in the body. This condition has symptoms of chronic fatigue, pain, brain fog and can cause organ damage.
Lupus is a condition that effects women mostly (90% of cases are women), and is usually diagnosed in women between 15 and 45 years old. Lupus is an autoimmune condition which involves symptoms including fatigue, rashes, joint pain and fever. Internal organs are also impacted such as heart, lungs, kidney, blood, immune system and brain. While there is currently no cure for lupus, there are effective medications to control it.
This autoimmune condition is where the insultation (myelin sheath) around the central nervous system nerves deteriorates and forms scars. Because nerves control many of our senses, body functions such as sight, balance, muscle movement, and mental capacity may be affected. MS is a condition that is not outwardly visible, and which mostly impacts women. MS affects different people in different ways, and treatment often involves managing symptoms.
This condition is experienced by women more than men, and they may experience more severe symptoms. Osteoarthritis can impact knees and hips and may be very painful due to pain, swelling and fatigue. There are a range of treatment options for osteoarthritis including physical activity, healthy eating, medications and injections.
This is a condition that is due to poor bone density, and three quarters of those are women. Women are affected because oestrogen is a hormone that helps bone strength – so after menopause when oestrogen diminishes, bones start to become spongy which can lead to fractures and breaks. While some women may develop osteoporosis early because of illness or hormonal deficiencies, there are no signs or symptoms of osteoporosis until a fracture occurs.
Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS)
There are a few different types of POTS with different symptoms for each. These symptoms might include fainting, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, fatigue, abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, shakiness, and exercise intolerance. This condition usually impacts women, and can be improved by a focus on diet, medications and physical activity.
Women are more likely to get rheumatoid arthritis. This condition is painful and debilitating for joints that are impacted. It can come in flares, and often it means the joint has limited movement which means using it is difficult. It can be hard to walk, open jars, turn on taps or even get dressed. But with early diagnosis and the right treatment, most people with rheumatoid arthritis can lead full and active lives.
This is a type of arthritis that causes chronic inflammatory condition of the spin, and which can limit the range of motion due to stiffness and inflammation. Ligaments and tendons that attach to the bones in the spine also become inflamed. Because this condition can be well controlled people with it can lead full and active lives. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ConditionsAndTreatments/ankylosing-spondylitis
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
A UTI is an infection in either the kidney, ureters, bladder and urethra. It’s easily treated by antibiotics but can damage the urinary system if left untreated. Women are more predisposed to UTIs due to a shorter urethra.