Women's Health

Women have many unique health concerns — menstrual cycles, pregnancy, birth control, menopause — and that's just the beginning. A number of health issues affect only women and others are more common in women. What's more, men and women may have the same condition, but different symptoms. Many diseases affect women differently and may even require distinct treatment.

We tend to think of breast cancer and osteoporosis as women's health diseases, but they also occur in men. Heart disease in a serious concern to both men and women, but risk factors and approaches to prevention are different. Women may also have specific concerns about aging, caregiving, emotional health issues, and skin care.

Women's Health Articles

What to do about hemorrhoids

Many people experience the discomfort of hemorrhoids. Often they can be treated effectively with topical products and by eating more fiber. If they persist, surgical options are available. More »

The ups and downs of folic acid fortification

Folic acid is essential to the production of new cells, and helps protect against certain kinds of birth defects, but studies have suggested that an excess of folic acid may contribute to the growth of cancer cells. More »

Making fertility-friendly lifestyle choices

If you are thinking about getting pregnant, you can do many simple, effective things right now to improve your chances of conception, because lifestyle can have profound effects on the reproductive functions of women and men. This means that increasing your fertility potential is something that you both can do without outside help. In addition to adopting a fertility-boosting diet and getting into the fertility zones for weight and exercise, there are a number of lifestyle choices you can make for improving fertility naturally. Tobacco smoking has been linked to reduced fertility in both women and men. In addition, a recent British study has found an association between smoking and stillbirths, low birthweight babies, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). A woman who smokes is likely to have less chance of becoming pregnant and giving birth when treated with in vitro fertilization (IVF) than a woman who doesn't smoke. This is especially true if she smokes twenty or more cigarettes a day. A mechanism that may link cigarette smoking and reduced pregnancy rates following IVF is the observation that smoking appears to accelerate the rate of egg loss. Women who smoke have the elevated hormone levels that indicate a depleted supply of eggs and prematurely aged follicles. More »

Certain symptoms may be early signs of ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer has long been called a "silent killer," because symptoms are thought to develop only after the disease has reached an advanced stage and is largely incurable. But health experts have identified a set of physical complaints that often occur in women who have ovarian cancer and may be early warning signs. These symptoms are very common, and most women with them do not have ovarian cancer. But for the women who do, the hope is that greater awareness will lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment. Four symptoms are more likely to occur in women with ovarian cancer than in women in the general population. These symptoms are bloating or increased abdominal size; pelvic or abdominal pain; difficulty eating or feeling full quickly; and urinary frequency or urgency. The statement recommends that any woman who experiences one or more of these complaints almost daily for more than a few weeks should see a clinician for a pelvic exam. Pelvic exams that raise suspicions are usually followed up with a noninvasive test called transvaginal ultrasound and possibly a blood test for a marker called CA-125, which is sometimes elevated in women with ovarian cancer. The only way to diagnose ovarian cancer is during surgery, which is best performed by a gynecologic oncologist or other surgeon skilled in ovarian cancer. More »

Repaying your sleep debt

Besides the effects of fatigue and irritability, a sustained sleep deficit can lead to a greater risk of other health problems such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. More »

New view of heart disease in women

A landmark study found that women are susceptible to a different type of heart disease called microvascular dysfunction. It affects both larger and smaller blood vessels, but is not detected by the standard cardiac tests. More »

Gender matters: Heart disease risk in women

We've come a long way since the days when a woman's worry over heart disease centered exclusively on its threat to the men in her life. We now know it's not just a man's problem. Every year, coronary heart disease, the single biggest cause of death in the United States, claims women and men in nearly equal numbers. In a survey conducted by the American Heart Association, about half of the women interviewed knew that heart disease is the leading cause of death in women, yet only 13% said it was their greatest personal health risk. If not heart disease, then what? Other survey data suggest that on a day-to-day basis, women still worry more about getting breast cancer — even though heart disease kills six times as many women every year. Why the disconnect? Breast cancer affects body image, sexuality, and self-esteem in ways that a diagnosis of heart disease does not. Also, heart disease tends to show up at an older age (on average, a woman's first heart attack occurs at age 70), so the threat may not seem all that real to younger women. Most 50-year-old women know women their age who've had breast cancer but none who've had heart disease. More »