From lack of awareness to similar symptoms and social customs, here's why women's health is shrugged off so often.
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We’ve all heard of misdiagnosis stories of how women have had their symptoms dismissed although there was an underlying condition. You might've been told to "take a pain reliever" way too often or even heard the good old "stop being too dramatic". But why is women’s health in particular suffering from this?
One of the most obvious reasons for having our complaints shrugged off is that many diseases that affect women have common symptoms like irregular periods or greater period pain. This is why diseases like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis are especially hard to diagnose. If doctors are hearing the same pain complaints over and over again they might become too normalised. However, pain isn't monotone, if the pain seems abnormal for whatever reason then it should be seriously checked on.
Taboos, social customs and feelings of shame can also prevent some women from opening up about their experiences. Since some women don't share their experiences, it's likely you'll have a faulty perception about how common certain conditions are. Not everyone can comfortably talk about sensitive topics like miscarriages or infertility. You'd be surprised about how common some conditions are.
Take polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a condition that may affect fertility, as an example. Did you know that this condition affects about 1 in 10 women? This disease is just as common as diabetes! But the amount of research and attention it gets is nowhere near diabetes. Attention drives awareness and knowing how shockingly common these conditions are can lower the chances of a misdiagnosis.
Reproductive health isn't the only area where women are wrongfully dismissed. Chronic pain and heart attack symptoms in women are usually shrugged off and women who come with these complaints are more likely to be seen as being over-dramatic.
One study even mentions that women in the emergency room are less likely to be taken seriously than men! Time and time again we hear stories of women going to the emergency room with chest pain being told they have a panic attack without looking into it.
Other less obvious reasons for this trend is the lack of research funding for diseases that affect women exclusively. Over the past century, organisations and charities with a focus on women's health have slowly started increasing. This led to more awareness and funding. But even then, there's a lack of long term studies focusing on women's health.
Awareness about women's health has drastically improved over the years. Hopefully, this will lead to lower rates of misdiagnosis and negligence!