Know about the top 5 illnesses which affect women

Women and men share most of the common illnesses; but there are few distinctions that set them apart from each other. The health of a woman can be differentiated and deserves special attention. On the occasion of International Women’s Day, doctors elaborate on the five common illnesses witnessed largely in women

Know about the top 5 illnesses which affect women
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Menstrual Irregularities

These can have various presentations right from puberty to menopause. Periods may be prolonged, heavy, scanty, delayed or frequent. Often, this can be physiological; however, it is important to rule out any underlying medical cause.

  • In young adolescent girls, the cause of an irregular bleeding pattern could be a polycystic ovarian disease, thyroid disease or simple ovarian cyst or bleeding disorder.
  • In reproductive age, often the menstrual irregularities are known as Dysfunctional Uterine Bleeding (DUB). Common causes are uterine polyps, endometriosis, adenomyosis, fibroids, ovarian cysts, and diabetes and thyroid disease.
  • In perimenopausal and menopausal age groups, although the above pathologies may be the cause, it is important to rule out malignancies. Cancers of the cervix and endometrium often present with irregular bleeding patterns, thus it is important to seek medical advice.

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

Infection of the bladder (Cystitis) and urethra are common in women and are often caused by E.coli bacteria which are usually found in the digestive system.

Short urethra and proximity to the anus and rectum make women prone to UTIs. If left untreated, the infection can reach the kidneys.

Common symptoms of UTI are burning sensation while urination, frequent and intense urge to urinate,  dark yellow colour urine, pain in the lower back and abdomen and fever. UTIs are easily treated by antibiotics, however it is important not to self-medicate.


Besides breast and cervical cancer, cancers of the endometrium, ovary, colon, lung and skin are also seen often in women; most of these are detected during their 40’s and 50’s.

  • Breast cancer can be diagnosed early by routine self-breast examination and mammography every 2 to 3 years. Similarly, a routine ultrasound of the pelvis can pick up endometrial and ovarian pathologies.
  • Pap smear is a simple test for early diagnoses of cervical cancer. It is important that women should report any irregular menstrual bleeding pattern or lump in the breast to their gynaecologist.

Anxiety and depression

Depression in women is common and they are at a higher risk than men. Clinical depression may be associated with a feeling of sadness, hopelessness, low self-esteem and low grade fatigue.

Depression is more common in women during puberty, pregnancy and menopause due to hormonal changes during this period.

It manifests as Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) in young women, post-partum depression after child birth, or anxiety disorder in menopause and perimenopausal period.

Its causes could be manifold:

  • Strong family and genetic history
  • Stress at schools, job, marital conflicts etc.
  • Loss of parent/social support such as divorce
  • Sexual abuse in childhood etc.

Recognising symptoms and early treatment is always beneficial.


An obese woman has a higher risk of diabetes, hypertension, heart diseases and early osteoarthritis of the knees. Obese women are more prone to multiple cancers too.

Obesity is a cause of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), menstrual irregularities, difficult antenatal period and complication during child birth; it can also be a cause of infertility.

The main cause of obesity is eating too much and moving too little. It is important to prevent obesity by exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy diet.

An expectant mother should eat healthy during antenatal and post-natal period of pregnancy and breastfeed for at least six months to one year. Children should be encouraged to indulge in sports and outdoor activities, while the elderly should definitely walk for at least 1 to 2 hours daily.

The author is a consultant Gynaecologist, S.L. Raheja Hospital, Mahim