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Health problems that affect women
Kanchan Maslekar
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April 02, 2007

It's a constant battle for her time. 

When she's at work, there are deadlines to be met and work related pressures to be dealt with. And, of course, she also needs to keep track of what is happening on the home front.

Once she reaches home, there's no question of putting her feet up for some much needed rest. Home chores beckon, plus there are the children's needs -- food, homework, play, conversation, etc.

Hubby would like his cup of chai  and some hot snacks. Some conversation thrown in would not be such a bad idea either.

Come morning and there's the challenge of getting everyone up and off on time, with their respective dabbas.

Meet the modern Indian woman, the mahadevi of multi-tasking.

Unfortunately, the resulting change in lifestyle has resulted in many health issues for women. Here are some of the more common ones:

Urinary Tract Infection

~ What is it?

UTI is a bacterial infection that occurs when micro organisms, usually bacteria, cling to the opening of the urethra (the urinary passage) and begin to multiply.

Women are susceptible to these bacteria due to the way their bodies are structured.

~ Causes

Long intervals between urination and low water intake are one of the primary causes for urine infection.

Dr Manasi Joshi, who runs Anandi clinic in Pune, says that when you drink less water, you urinate less and bacteria that might have entered the bladder will have more time to multiply and grow, leading to infections.

Often, when travelling, due to lack of privacy/ proper toilet facilities, there long gaps before you can visit the bathroom.

"Sexual intercourse is also a common cause of urinary tract infections; the female anatomy can make women more prone to UTIs," Dr Joshi adds.

~ Preventive measures 

The most important method of preventing such infections is to practise good personal hygiene. Drinking plenty of fluids help flush the bacteria out of the urinary system, says Dr Joshi. She adds that it is vital to empty the bladder as soon as the urge to urinate occurs.

The other preventive measures include avoiding using unhygienic toilets, taking showers instead of tub baths and avoiding the usage of feminine hygiene sprays and scented douches (vaginal washes), which may irritate the urethra.

Breast Fibroadenomas

~ What is it?

Dr Joshi says fibroadenomas refer to tumours composed of glandular and fibrous tissues. Breast fibroadenomas, abnormal growths of glandular and fibrous tissues, are most common between the ages of 15 and 30. These firm, round, rubbery lumps range from one cm to five cm in size.

While some types of breast lumps come and go during the menstrual cycle, fibroadenomas typically do not disappear after a woman's period and should be checked by a doctor, she adds.
 
~ Causes

Though no specific causes can be pinpointed, they may be dependent upon estrogen (female reproductive hormone) because they are common in premenopausal women.

~ Symptoms

Fibroadenomas usually cause no symptoms and may be discovered during breast self-examination, or during a routine check-up.

"Doctors conduct tests -- including mammography or ultrasound scans, or biopsy (surgical removal of cells or tissue for examination under the microscope), depending on the lump," Dr Joshi says.

"Breast fibroadenomas cannot be prevented. They can be discovered early by regular breast self-examination," she adds.

~ Treatment

Breast fibroadenomas are removed by lumpectomy, or surgical excision under local or general anaesthesia.

Surgery is generally recommended for women over 30, and for lumps that are painful or enlarging.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases

~ What is it?

STDs are diseases caused by bacteria and viruses that you get exposed to when having sexual intercourse (vaginal, oral or anal) with someone who already has an STD. There are more than 20 kinds of STDs.

~ Types of STDs

STDs caused by viruses include HIV/ AIDS, genital herpes, genital warts and cytomegalovirus. These STDs can be controlled but not cured, Dr Joshi adds.

Those caused by bacteria are Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea, trichomoniasis and syphilis. These can be treated and cured with antibiotics.

Some of the STDs include

HIV Infection and AIDS: This disease weakens the body's ability to protect itself from getting sick. The virus that causes it is HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), which is found mainly in blood but occurs in other body fluids such as semen, vaginal secretions and breast milk.

Gonorrhoea: This infection is easily transmitted by sexual contact. It can infect the throat, producing severe soreness, the urethra, causing burning, painful urination and it may also infect the anus and the rectum.

Syphilis: An infectious disease caused by the bacterium Treponema palladium, which penetrates broken skin or mucous membranes. It can also be transmitted to the foetus through the placenta.

Genital warts: Genital warts are caused by the Human Papilloma Virus, which causes small growths on the skin and mucous membranes. HPV can invade the vagina and cervix and may lead to cancerous changes in the cervix. Symptoms include 'warty' tumours on the genitals, genital sores, itching of the genital areas and increased vaginal discharge.

~ Preventive measures 

Dr Joshi says, "It's necessary to have a mutually monogamous sexual relationship with an uninfected partner to prevent STDs. Using a condom correctly and consistently greatly reduces the chance of acquiring an sexually transmitted infection."

Next: Infertillity, depression and alcoholism


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