Health Topics

Women

Women's Health
National Library of Medicine

Women have unique health issues. And some of the health issues that affect both men and women can affect women differently.

Unique issues include pregnancy, menopause, and conditions of the female organs. Women can have a healthy pregnancy by getting early and regular prenatal care. They should also get recommended breast cancer, cervical cancer, and bone density screenings.

Women and men also have many of the same health problems. But these problems can affect women differently. For example,

  • Women are more likely to die following a heart attack than men
  • Women are more likely to show signs of depression and anxiety than men
  • The effects of sexually transmitted diseases can be more serious in women
  • Osteoarthritis affects more women than men
  • Women are more likely to have urinary tract problems

NIH: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development


Women's Health
Women
Population Groups
Women have unique health issues. And some of the health issues that affect both men and women can affect women differently. Unique issues include pregnancy, ...
HIV/AIDS in Women
National Library of Medicine
AIDS in Women

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It harms your immune system by destroying the white blood cells that fight infection. AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. It is the final stage of infection with HIV. Not everyone with HIV develops AIDS.

HIV often spreads through unprotected sex with an infected person. Women can get it more easily during vaginal sex than men can. HIV may also spread by sharing drug needles or through contact with the blood of an infected person.

About one in four people in the United States who have HIV are women. Women who have HIV/AIDS have some different problems from men, such as

  • Complications such as repeated vaginal yeast infections, severe pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), and a higher risk of cervical cancer
  • Different, sometimes more severe, side effects from the drugs that treat HIV/AIDS
  • Drug interactions between some HIV/AIDS medicines and hormonal birth control
  • The risk of giving HIV to their baby while pregnant or during childbirth
  • Women often don't get diagnosed until they are in the later in the stages of HIV infection. This means that they may be more at risk of infections.

There is no cure, but there are many medicines to fight both HIV infection and the infections and cancers that come with it. People who get early treatment can live with the disease for a long time.


HIV Infections
Women
Immune System
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It harms your immune system by destroying the white blood cells that fight infection. AIDS stands for acquired ...
Heart Disease in Women
National Library of Medicine

In the United States, 1 in 4 women dies from heart disease. The most common cause of heart disease in both men and women is narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries, the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart itself. This is called coronary artery disease, and it happens slowly over time. It's the major reason people have heart attacks.

Heart diseases that affect women more than men include

  • Coronary microvascular disease (MVD) - a problem that affects the heart's tiny arteries
  • Broken heart syndrome - extreme emotional stress leading to severe but often short-term heart muscle failure

The older a woman gets, the more likely she is to get heart disease. But women of all ages should be concerned about heart disease. All women can take steps to prevent it by practicing healthy lifestyle habits.

NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute


Heart Diseases
Women
Blood, Heart and Circulation
In the United States, 1 in 4 women dies from heart disease. The most common cause of heart disease in both men and women is narrowing or blockage of the ...
Sexual Problems in Women
National Library of Medicine
Dyspareunia
Female Circumcision
Female Sexual Dysfunction
Vaginismus

There are many problems that can keep a woman from enjoying sex. They include

  • Lack of sexual desire
  • Inability to become aroused
  • Lack of orgasm, or sexual climax
  • Painful intercourse

These problems may have physical or psychological causes. Physical causes may include conditions like diabetes, heart disease, nerve disorders, or hormone problems. Some drugs can also affect desire and function. Psychological causes may include work-related stress and anxiety. They may also include depression or concerns about marriage or relationship problems. For some women, the problem results from past sexual trauma.

Occasional problems with sexual function are common. If problems last more than a few months or cause distress for you or your partner, you should see your health care provider.


Vaginismus
Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological
Dyspareunia
Women
Sexual Health Issues
Female Reproductive System
There are many problems that can keep a woman from enjoying sex. They include Lack of sexual desire Inability to become aroused Lack of orgasm, or sexual climax ...
Women's Health Checkup
National Library of Medicine
Pelvic Exam

Regular health exams and tests can help find problems before they start. They also can help find problems early, when your chances for treatment are better. As a woman, you need some special exams and screenings. During your checkup, your health care provider will usually do:

  • A pelvic exam - an exam to check if internal female organs are normal by feeling their shape and size.
  • A Pap test - a test to check for cancer of the cervix, the opening to a woman's uterus. Cells from the cervix are examined under a microscope.
  • A clinical breast exam - to check for breast cancer by feeling and looking at your breasts.

Your health care provider may also recommend other tests, including a mammogram or a test for HPV.


Women's Health
Physical Examination
Women
Wellness and Lifestyle
Regular health exams and tests can help find problems before they start. They also can help find problems early, when your chances for treatment are better. ...
Breast Cancer
National Library of Medicine
Paget's Disease of Breast

Breast cancer affects one in eight women during their lives. No one knows why some women get breast cancer, but there are many risk factors. Risks that you cannot change include

  • Age - the risk rises as you get older
  • Genes - two genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, greatly increase the risk. Women who have family members with breast or ovarian cancer may wish to be tested for the genes.
  • Personal factors - beginning periods before age 12 or going through menopause after age 55

Other risks include obesity, using hormone replacement therapy (also called menopausal hormone therapy), taking birth control pills, drinking alcohol, not having children or having your first child after age 35, and having dense breasts.

Symptoms of breast cancer may include a lump in the breast, a change in size or shape of the breast, and discharge from a nipple. Breast self-exams and mammography can help find breast cancer early, when it is most treatable. One possible treatment is surgery. It could be a lumpectomy or a mastectomy. Other treatments include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and targeted therapy. Targeted therapy uses substances that attack cancer cells without harming normal cells.

Men can have breast cancer, too, but it is rare.

NIH: National Cancer Institute


Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast
Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Syndrome
Breast Neoplasms
Inflammatory Breast Neoplasms
Cancers
Women
Female Reproductive System
Breast cancer affects one in eight women during their lives. No one knows why some women get breast cancer, but there are many risk factors. Risks that you ...
Chlamydia Infections
National Library of Medicine
What is chlamydia?

Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted disease. It is caused by bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis. It can infect both men and women. Women can get chlamydia in the cervix, rectum, or throat. Men can get chlamydia in the urethra (inside the penis), rectum, or throat.

How do you get chlamydia?

You can get chlamydia during oral, vaginal, or anal sex with someone who has the infection. A woman can also pass chlamydia to her baby during childbirth.

If you've had chlamydia and were treated in the past, you can get re-infected if you have unprotected sex with someone who has it.

Who is at risk of getting chlamydia?

Chlamydia is more common in young people, especially young women. You are more likely to get it if you don't consistently use a condom, or if you have multiple partners.

What are the symptoms of chlamydia?

Chlamydia doesn't usually cause any symptoms. So you may not realize that you have it. People with chlamydia who have no symptoms can still pass the disease to others. If you do have symptoms, they may not appear until several weeks after you have sex with an infected partner.

Symptoms in women include

  • Abnormal vaginal discharge, which may have a strong smell
  • A burning sensation when urinating
  • Pain during intercourse

If the infection spreads, you might get lower abdominal pain, pain during sex, nausea, or fever.

Symptoms in men include

  • Discharge from your penis
  • A burning sensation when urinating
  • Burning or itching around the opening of your penis
  • Pain and swelling in one or both testicles (although this is less common)

If the chlamydia infects the rectum (in men or women), it can cause rectal pain, discharge, and/or bleeding.

How is chlamydia diagnosed?

There are lab tests to diagnose chlamydia. Your health care provider may ask you to provide a urine sample. For women, providers sometimes use (or ask you to use) a cotton swab to get a sample from your vagina to test for chlamydia.

Who should be tested for chlamydia?

You should go to your health provider for a test if you have symptoms of chlamydia, or if you have a partner who has a sexually transmitted disease. Pregnant women should get a test when they go to their first prenatal visit.

People at higher risk should get checked for chlamydia every year:

  • Sexually active women 25 and younger
  • Older women who have new or multiple sex partners, or a sex partner who has a sexually transmitted disease
  • Men who have sex with men (MSM)
What are the complications of chlamydia?

In women, an untreated infection can spread to your uterus and fallopian tubes, causing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can cause permanent damage to your reproductive system. This can lead to long-term pelvic pain, infertility, and ectopic pregnancy. Women who have had chlamydia infections more than once are at higher risk of serious reproductive health complications.

Men often don't have health problems from chlamydia. Sometimes it can infect the epididymis (the tube that carries sperm). This can cause pain, fever, and, rarely, infertility.

Both men and women can develop reactive arthritis because of a chlamydia infection. Reactive arthritis is a type of arthritis that happens as a "reaction" to an infection in the body.

Babies born to infected mothers can get eye infections and pneumonia from chlamydia. It may also make it more likely for your baby to be born too early.

Untreated chlamydia may also increase your chances of getting or giving HIV/AIDS.

What are the treatments for chlamydia?

Antibiotics will cure the infection. You may get a one-time dose of the antibiotics, or you may need to take medicine every day for 7 days. Antibiotics cannot repair any permanent damage that the disease has caused.

To prevent spreading the disease to your partner, you should not have sex until the infection has cleared up. If you got a one-time dose of antibiotics, you should wait 7 days after taking the medicine to have sex again. If you have to take medicine every day for 7 days, you should not have sex again until you have finished taking all of the doses of your medicine.

It is common to get a repeat infection, so you should get tested again about three months after treatment.

Can I prevent chlamydia?

The only sure way to prevent chlamydia is to not have vaginal, anal, or oral sex.

Correct usage of latex condoms greatly reduces, but does not eliminate, the risk of catching or spreading chlamydia.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Chlamydia Infections
Infections
Sexual Health Issues
Female Reproductive System
Male Reproductive System
What is chlamydia? Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted disease. It is caused by bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis. It can infect both men and ...
Primary Ovarian Insufficiency
National Library of Medicine
Ovarian Insufficiency
Premature Ovarian Failure
POF
POI
What is primary ovarian insufficiency (POI)?

Primary ovarian insufficiency (POI), also known as premature ovarian failure, happens when a woman's ovaries stop working normally before she is 40.

Many women naturally experience reduced fertility when they are about 40 years old. They may start getting irregular menstrual periods as they transition to menopause. For women with POI, irregular periods and reduced fertility start before the age of 40. Sometimes it can start as early as the teenage years.

POI is different from premature menopause. With premature menopause, your periods stop before age 40. You can no longer get pregnant. The cause can be natural or it can be a disease, surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation. With POI, some women still have occasional periods. They may even get pregnant. In most cases of POI, the cause is unknown.

What causes primary ovarian insufficiency (POI)?

In about 90 percent of cases, the exact cause of POI is unknown.

Research shows that POI is related to problems with the follicles. Follicles are small sacs in your ovaries. Your eggs grow and mature inside them. One type of follicle problem is that you run out of working follicles earlier than normal. Another is that the follicles are not working properly. In most cases, the cause of the follicle problem is unknown. But sometimes the cause may be

  • Genetic disorders such as Fragile X syndrome and Turner syndrome
  • A low number of follicles
  • Autoimmune diseases, including thyroiditis and Addison disease
  • Chemotherapy or radiation therapy
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Toxins, such as cigarette smoke, chemicals, and pesticides
Who is at risk for for primary ovarian insufficiency (POI)?

Certain factors can raise a woman's risk of POI:

  • Family history. Women who have a mother or sister with POI are more likely to have it.
  • Genes. Some changes to genes and genetic conditions put women at higher risk for POI. For example, women Fragile X syndrome or Turner syndrome are at higher risk.
  • Certain diseases, such as autoimmune diseases and viral infections
  • Cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy
  • Age. Younger women can get POI, but it becomes more common between the ages of 35-40.
What are the symptoms of primary ovarian insufficiency (POI)?

The first sign of POI is usually irregular or missed periods. Later symptoms may be similar to those of natural menopause:

  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Irritability
  • Poor concentration
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Pain during sex
  • Vaginal dryness

For many women with POI, trouble getting pregnant or infertility is the reason they go to their health care provider.

What other problems can primary ovarian insufficiency (POI) cause?

Since POI causes you to have lower levels of certain hormones, you are at greater risk for other health conditions, including

  • Anxiety and depression. Hormonal changes caused by POI can contribute to anxiety or lead to depression.
  • Dry eye syndrome and eye surface disease. Some women with POI have one of these eye conditions. Both can cause discomfort and may lead to blurred vision. If not treated, these conditions can cause permanent eye damage.
  • Heart disease. Lower levels of estrogen can affect the muscles lining the arteries and can increase the buildup of cholesterol in the arteries. These factors increase your risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
  • Infertility.
  • Low thyroid function. This problem also is called hypothyroidism. The thyroid is a gland that makes hormones that control your body's metabolism and energy level. Low levels thyroid hormones can affect your metabolism and can cause very low energy, mental sluggishness, and other symptoms.
  • Osteoporosis. The hormone estrogen helps keep bones strong. Without enough estrogen, women with POI often develop osteoporosis. It is a bone disease that causes weak, brittle bones that are more likely to break.
How is primary ovarian insufficiency (POI) diagnosed?

To diagnose POI, your health care provider may do

  • A medical history, including asking whether you have relatives with POI
  • A pregnancy test, to make sure that you are not pregnant
  • A physical exam, to look for signs of other disorders which could be causing your symptoms
  • Blood tests, to check for certain hormone levels. You may also have a blood test to do a chromosome analysis. A chromosome is the part of a cell that contains genetic information.
  • A pelvic ultrasound, to see whether or not the ovaries are enlarged or have multiple follicles
How is primary ovarian insufficiency (POI) treated?

Currently, there is no proven treatment to restore normal function to a woman's ovaries. But there are treatments for some of the symptoms of POI. There are also ways to lower your health risks and treat the conditions that POI can cause:

  • Hormone replacement therapy (HRT).HRT is the most common treatment. It gives your body the estrogen and other hormones that your ovaries are not making. HRT improves sexual health and decreases the risks for heart disease and osteoporosis. You usually take it until about age 50; that's about the age when menopause usually begins.
  • Calcium and vitamin D supplements. Because women with POI are at higher risk for osteoporosis, you should take calcium and vitamin D every day.
  • In vitro fertilization (IVF). If you have POI and you wish to become pregnant, you may consider trying IVF.
  • Regular physical activity and a healthy body weight.Getting regular exercise and controlling your weight can lower your risk for osteoporosis and heart disease.
  • Treatments for associated conditions. If you have a condition that is related to POI, it is important to treat that as well. Treatments may involve medicines and hormones.

NIH: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development


Primary Ovarian Insufficiency
Women
Pregnancy and Reproduction
Endocrine System
Female Reproductive System
What is primary ovarian insufficiency (POI)? Primary ovarian insufficiency (POI), also known as premature ovarian failure, happens when a woman's ovaries ...
How to Prevent Heart Disease
National Library of Medicine
Heart Disease Prevention

Heart disease is the leading cause of the death in the United States. It is also a major cause of disability. There are many things that can raise your risk for heart disease. They are called risk factors. Some of them you cannot control, but there are many that you can control. Learning about them can lower your risk of heart disease.

What are the heart disease risk factors that I cannot change?
  • Age. Your risk of heart disease increases as you get older. Men age 45 and older and women age 55 and older have a greater risk.
  • Gender. Some risk factors may affect heart disease risk differently in women than in men. For example, estrogen provides women some protection against heart disease, but diabetes raises the risk of heart disease more in women than in men.
  • Race or ethnicity. Certain groups have higher risks than others. African Americans are more likely than whites to have heart disease, while Hispanic Americans are less likely to have it. Some Asian groups, such as East Asians, have lower rates, but South Asians have higher rates.
  • Family history. You have a greater risk if you have a close family member who had heart disease at an early age.
What can I do to lower my risk of heart disease?

Fortunately, there are many things you can do to reduce your chances of getting heart disease:

  • Control your blood pressure.High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease. It is important to get your blood pressure checked regularly - at least once a year for most adults, and more often if you have high blood pressure. Take steps, including lifestyle changes, to prevent or control high blood pressure.
  • Keep your cholesterol and triglyceride levels under control. High levels of cholesterol can clog your arteries and raise your risk of coronary artery disease and heart attack. Lifestyle changes and medicines (if needed) can lower your cholesterol. Triglycerides are another type of fat in the blood. High levels of triglycerides may also raise the risk of coronary artery disease, especially in women.
  • Stay at a healthy weight. Being overweight or having obesity can increase your risk for heart disease. This is mostly because they are linked to other heart disease risk factors, including high blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Controlling your weight can lower these risks.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Try to limit saturated fats, foods high in sodium, and added sugars. Eat plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. The DASH diet is an example of an eating plan that can help you to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, two things that can lower your risk of heart disease.
  • Get regular exercise. Exercise has many benefits, including strengthening your heart and improving your circulation. It can also help you maintain a healthy weight and lower cholesterol and blood pressure. All of these can lower your risk of heart disease.
  • Limit alcohol. Drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure. It also adds extra calories, which may cause weight gain. Both of those raise your risk of heart disease. Men should have no more than two alcoholic drinks per day, and women should not have more than one.
  • Don't smoke. Cigarette smoking raises your blood pressure and puts you at higher risk for heart attack and stroke. If you do not smoke, do not start. If you do smoke, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease. You can talk with your health care provider for help in finding the best way for you to quit.
  • Manage stress.Stress is linked to heart disease in many ways. It can raise your blood pressure. Extreme stress can be a "trigger" for a heart attack. Also, some common ways of coping with stress, such as overeating, heavy drinking, and smoking, are bad for your heart. Some ways to help manage your stress include exercise, listening to music, focusing on something calm or peaceful, and meditating.
  • Manage diabetes. Having diabetes doubles your risk of diabetic heart disease. That is because over time, high blood sugar from diabetes can damage your blood vessels and the nerves that control your heart and blood vessels. So, it is important to get tested for diabetes, and if you have it, to keep it under control.
  • Make sure that you get enough sleep. If you don't get enough sleep, you raise your risk of high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes. Those three things can raise your risk for heart disease. Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Make sure that you have good sleep habits. If you have frequent sleep problems, contact your health care provider. One problem, sleep apnea, causes people to briefly stop breathing many times during sleep. This interferes with your ability to get a good rest and can raise your risk of heart disease. If you think you might have it, ask your doctor about having a sleep study. And if you do have sleep apnea, make sure that you get treatment for it.

Heart Diseases
Blood, Heart and Circulation
Wellness and Lifestyle
... get older. Men age 45 and older and women age 55 and older have a greater risk. ... factors may affect heart disease risk differently in women than in men. For example, estrogen provides women ...
Infections and Pregnancy
National Library of Medicine
Pregnancy, Infections in

During pregnancy, some common infections like the common cold or a skin infection do not usually cause serious problems. But other infections can be dangerous to you, your baby, or both. Some infections may lead to preterm birth and low birth weight babies. Others can cause serious illness, birth defects, and lifelong disabilities, such as hearing loss or learning problems.

Some of the infections that can be dangerous during pregnancy include

  • Bacterial vaginosis (BV)
  • Group B strep (GBS)
  • Hepatitis
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Toxoplasmosis
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Yeast infections
  • Zika virus

To try to prevent infections,

  • Don't eat raw or undercooked meat
  • Don't share food or drinks with other people
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Don't empty cat litter. Cats can transmit toxoplasmosis.

If you do get an infection during pregnancy, contact your health care provider about how best to protect you and your baby. Only some medicines are safe during pregnancy.


Pregnancy Complications, Infectious
Infections
Pregnancy and Reproduction
Female Reproductive System
During pregnancy, some common infections like the common cold or a skin infection do not usually cause serious problems. But other infections can be dangerous ...