May 25, 2013 | 05:50 PM (BD Time)
25 May, 2013 Saturday
“Women’s diseases” men can get too
It's hard to escape the flagrant gender labeling in our society. Dolls and the color pink are associated with girls, while guys are assigned GI Joes and the "manly" color blue. And the trend doesn't stop at childhood, either. Even the medical industry tends to ascribe certain diseases to men or women, even when both sexes run the risk of developing them. Recently, there's been a successful campaign push to educate women about the dangers of heart disease, a condition previously associated with men only. By the same token, there are quite a few health problems facing guys that warrant attention. Men may be less likely to get these diseases than women are, but that doesn't mean the danger-and the need for preventative measures-isn't there.
All of us are born with breast tissue. Women tend to have more of it, thanks to hormones, which is one reason why their breast cancer rates are higher. But men are at risk, too. In 2009, the American Cancer Society determined that 1,910 men would be diagnosed and 440 would die from invasive breast cancer. The potential causes are similar between men and women-excessive alcohol consumption, obesity, high estrogen levels (in men, this could be the result of Klinefelter's syndrome or cirrhosis), genetic predisposition, and so on. Breast cancer is most common among men aged sixty to seventy.
Doctors used to believe that men were less likely than women to survive breast cancer, but their survival rates are about the same. The National Cancer Institute thinks the mistaken belief was due to men's not being screened for the disease earlier in life (as women are with mammograms), which means their diagnoses often happen at later, and more terminal, cancer stages.
Look at any advertisement for calcium supplements or osteoporosis treatment, and it's obvious who's being targeted-namely, not men. While it's true that women are more prone to weakened bones, the National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that two million men have it currently, while twelve million more are at risk. Women have smaller frames, which give them less to work with as calcium depletion rises with age. But while women are often tested for bone density around menopause because their hormonal changes make bones more fragile, men aren't until something major happens, like a fracture.
Men die more from hip fractures than women (31 percent, compared with 17 percent), partly because their fractures tend to happen later in life, and partly because the disease progresses unchecked so for long, severely damaging their frames. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, 6 percent of men will have hip fractures by age fifty. Age isn't the only trigger, though. Lifestyle habits like smoking, drinking too much alcohol, and getting little to no exercise, as well as certain medications (for example, those that contain steroids, like asthma medication), ethnicity, and family history, are all possible risk factors.
3. Bladder Infections
About 20 percent of women will get at least one bladder infection at some point, while men's chances start out lower and increase with age. While women's shorter urethras might be the reason they get infections more often (less distance for bacteria to travel), the fact that men's prostates get bigger as they age is a common culprit. Anything that blocks urine flow and therefore keeps bacteria inside to multiply, rather than flushing them out-including enlarged prostates, kidney stones, and narrowed urethras-can lead to an infection. Symptoms of bladder infections are about the same for men and women but vary individually-frequent need to pee, pelvic pain, lower-back pain, blood in urine, and a burning feeling.
4. Thyroid Problems
Within our throats lie thyroid glands that produce hormones essential for normal metabolic and organ functions. As time goes on, nodules can grow on these glands and potentially affect hormone production, triggering either too little (hypothyroidism, the most common kind) or too much (hyperthyroidism); about 10 percent of them are cancerous. Only 5 percent of men in the United States experience these conditions, compared with 10 percent of women, but the consequences-weight gain, lethargy, and depression for hypothyroidism, versus rapid weight loss, rapid heartbeat, and increased anxiety for hyperthyroidism-are equally scary.
If you have an autoimmune disorder, you're more likely to have thyroid problems. People over sixty, diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis sufferers, and those with a family history of these issues are also higher-risk.
As a whole, women are treated for depression more often than men are, but does that mean they're more depressed, or that they're more targeted for treatment? What we think of as common symptoms, like overwhelming sadness, aren't always experienced across genders. Depressed men tend to show anger and frustration, get easily fatigued and discouraged, try to escape their problems (either by focusing too much on work or by developing dangerous drug and/or alcohol habits), and experience more physical pain than usual. They're less likely than women to seek help, perhaps because there's more social pressure on them to be stronger, both emotionally and physically.
However, by giving in to societal expectations, countless seriously depressed men are going undiagnosed. The Mayo Clinic's Web site states that women attempt suicide more, but more men die from suicide attempts overall.
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