Our society is undergoing a major women’s health crisis. Illnesses that disproportionately affect women are under-researched and poorly understood, doctors doubt women’s pain, and women are generally in poorer health than men. Due to stereotypes that women are prone to exaggerating physical health problems and misogynistic myths that women's bodies are designed to suffer, many of the issues they face are normalized. But while it may be common, feeling unwell is not normal, and women will not enjoy gender equality until they achieve the same level of physical health as men.
"Conditions that disproportionately affect women — particularly chronic, non-life-threatening but disabling conditions with subjective symptoms, like pain and fatigue — have been woefully neglected in the research realm," Maya Dusenbery, author of Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick, tells Bustle. "Consequently, they remain very poorly understood — and therefore poorly treated. A large proportion of women's disproportionate burden of illness is attributable to autoimmune disorders, chronic pain disorders, and other relatively under-researched female-predominate conditions. On top of that, there are also many women suffering from conditions that have been studied primarily in men — like heart disease or ADHD — and so often have 'atypical' presentations that go undiagnosed — and, again, therefore poorly treated."
For example, autoimmune diseases are more common among women, which could stem in part from differences between men's and women's immune systems, but only 30 percent of risk for autoimmune disorders is genetic. "So, to what extent is women's higher rate of autoimmune disease due to our higher rates of chronic stress? Or due our greater use of chemical-laden cosmetics and beauty products and household cleaning supplies?" Dusenbury says. "Historically, medicine has often treated women's illness as if it's innate and inevitable. But even if women have a predisposition to certain conditions (while men likewise have a predisposition to others) for sex-based reasons, there are also clearly environmental factors responsible for triggering these conditions — at least some of which are intimately connected to the gender-based oppression women experience."
Here are some illnesses primarily affecting women — and a lot of them — that you should know about, according to experts.