Women's Health - Learning Center
Allergies | Asthma
& Chronic Cough | Hypertension
| Chronic Fatigue | Depression
| Diarrhea | Facial
Symptoms | Headache
| Infertility | Insomnia
| Knee Problems | Libido
| Menopause | Migraine
| Morning Sickness
| Neck, Shoulder Pain | Osteoporosis
| Overactive Bladder | PMS
| Pregnancy | Reflux
Allergies are caused by your body’s overreaction to a normally harmless stimulant in the environment. When exposed to an allergen, the body’s immune system hyper-responds and this causes the symptoms of allergies which range from mild to severe. Mild symptoms include itchy, watery eyes, nasal congestion, and rash. Moderate symptoms include itchiness over the body and difficulty breathing. Severe symptoms include varying degrees of swelling that can make swallowing and breathing difficult, abdominal pain/cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, mental confusion. Allergies are a very common problem, affecting at least 2 out of 10 Americans.
Asthma & Chronic cough
Asthma is a condition in which people have very sensitive airways that react to many different things in the environment known as “triggers.” Common triggers of asthma include: infections (viruses, colds, flu, sinus infections), allergens (pollen, mold spores, pet dander, dust mites), tobacco smoke, exercise or exertion, cold air or changes in temperature or humidity, and stress, anxiety, and other strong emotions. Contact with these triggers cause asthma symptoms to start or worsen, often triggering an asthma attack. Common symptoms of asthma include coughing - especially at night, wheezing, shortness or breath, and chest tightness, pressure, or pain. Symptoms may be different at different times.
Asthma affects millions of Americans including 10-12% of children. Asthma may occur at any age, but is more common in younger individuals, in people who have a family history of asthma, or who have allergies, or are exposed to tobacco smoke.
Blood pressure – Hypertension
Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls as the heart pumps blood throughout the body. High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is dangerous because it makes the heart work harder to pump blood to the body and it contributes to hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis. Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80. Blood pressures from 120-139/80-89 are considered above the normal range and should be repeated or monitored. Hypertension is classified as a blood pressure of 140/90 or above.
There are usually no symptoms or signs of hypertension. In fact, nearly one-third of those who have it don't know it. The only way to know if you have hypertension definitely is to have your blood pressure checked.
Severe tiredness or fatigue that interferes with your normal daily activities is the main symptom of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. If you have CFS, you may feel exhausted all or much of the time. You may be depressed and have problems sleeping. It may be harder for you to think clearly, to concentrate, and to remember things. You may also have a fever, headaches, muscle and joint pain, sore throat, and tender glands in your neck or armpits. Your symptoms may flare up after a mental or physical activity that used to be no problem for you.
Your fatigue is real, not imaginary. It is your body's reaction to a combination of emotional and physical factors. There are no tests that can confirm a diagnosis of CFS. Because of this, many people have trouble accepting their disease or getting their friends and family to do so. There is no treatment for CFS itself, but many of the symptoms can be alleviated with treatment.
Being depressed is a normal reaction to loss, life’s struggles, and emotional stressors. But when these feelings of sadness last for long periods of time and prevent you from leading a normal life, you may be suffering from a major depressive disorder which can be treated. Signs and symptoms of depression include: sadness, loss of enjoyment from things that were once pleasurable, loss of energy, feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness, difficulty concentrating, difficulty making decisions, insomnia or excessive sleep, stomachache and digestive problems, sexual problems (for example, decreased sex drive), aches and pains (such as recurrent headaches), a change in appetite causing weight loss or gain, thoughts of death or suicide or attempting suicide.
Depression can fall into several different types: major depression, bipolar depression, chronic depression or dysthymia, seasonal depression, psychotic depression, and postpartum depression. Depression affects millions of Americans and unfortunately, most people never seek treatment.
Diarrhea describes bowel movements or stools that are loose and watery. The most common cause of diarrhea is a virus that infects the gut. The infection usually lasts for two days and is sometimes called "intestinal flu." Diarrhea may also be caused by: infection by bacteria, infections by other organisms, eating foods that upset the digestive system, allergies to certain foods, medications, radiation therapy, diseases of the intestines (Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis), malabsorption (where the body is unable to adequately absorb certain nutrients from the diet), hyperthyroidism, some cancers, laxative abuse, alcohol abuse, digestive tract surgery, and diabetes. Diarrhea may also follow constipation, especially for people who have irritable bowel syndrome. Ongoing diarrhea causes the body to lose large amounts of water and nutrients and can deplete the body's supply of water and electrolytes (such as sodium and potassium) that tissues need to function.. If you have watery stools more than three times a day and you are not drinking enough fluids, you could become dehydrated, which can cause serious complications if not treated.
Drooping eyelids are a result of decreased muscle tone in the muscles that control the eyelids. This can happen with age, or can sometimes occur suddenly causing eyes to be dry and irritated, and interfering with vision. Any disorder that causes paralysis or weakness in the face can cause eyelid droop. Many health problems can cause weakness or paralysis of the face. If a specific reason cannot be found for the weakness, the condition is called Bell's palsy.
Facial spasms may either be spasms or twitches of the facial muscles. These can occur on both sides or just one side of the face or on only the upper or lower face. There are multiple causes of facial spasms ranging from low calcium in the blood to neurologic disease (disease stemming from the brain).
Millions of Americans suffer from chronic, recurring headaches. The most common types of headache include tension headaches, migraine headaches, cluster headaches, and sinus headaches. Tension headaches are caused by muscle contraction and come and go over a long period of time. The exact causes of migraines are unknown. Migraine pain is moderate to severe, often described as pounding, throbbing pain. Migraines can last from 4 hours to 3 days and usually occur 1 to 4 times per month. Migraines are associated with symptoms such as light sensitivity; noise or odors; nausea or vomiting; loss of appetite; and stomach upset or abdominal pain. Cluster headaches occur one to three times per day during a cluster period, which may last 2 weeks to 3 months. Cluster headaches may disappear completely (go into "remission") for months or years, only to recur. Sinus headaches are associated with a deep and constant pain in the cheekbones, forehead or bridge of the nose. The pain usually intensifies with sudden head movement or straining and usually occurs with other sinus symptoms, such as nasal discharge, feeling of fullness in the ears, fever, and facial swelling.
Infertility is defined as a couple's inability to become pregnant after 1 year of sex without using birth control. When considering whether you may have an infertility problem, however, bear in mind that "normal fertility" is defined as the ability to naturally conceive within 2 years' time. Women and men bear nearly equal responsibility when it comes to infertility. Infertility is a female problem in 40% of cases, a male problem in 40% of cases, and a combined problem of the couple or unexplained in 20% of cases. If you are concerned about your ability to conceive, as a woman, it may benefit you to seek an evaluation, especially if you are over the age of 35, have irregular cycles, experience painful menstrual periods, have suffered several pregnancy losses, have used an intrauterine device (IUD), or have had a pelvic infection or abdominal surgery.
Insomnia is a sleep disorder that is characterized by difficulty falling and/or staying asleep. People with insomnia have one or more of the following symptoms: difficulty falling asleep, waking up often during the night and having trouble going back to sleep, waking up too early in the morning, or feeling tired upon waking. Insomnia also varies in how long it lasts and how often it occurs. It can be short-term (acute insomnia) or can last a long time (chronic insomnia). It can also come and go, with periods of time when a person has no sleep problems. Acute insomnia can last from one night to a few weeks. Insomnia is called chronic when a person has insomnia at least three nights a week for a month or longer. Causes of insomnia can include: significant life stress (job loss or change, death of a loved one, divorce, moving), illness, emotional or physical discomfort, environmental factors like noise, light, or extreme temperatures (hot or cold) that interfere with sleep, some medications (for example those used to treat colds, allergies, depression, high blood pressure and asthma), interferences in normal sleep schedule (jet lag or switching from a day to night shift, for example), depression and/or anxiety, or pain/discomfort at night. Good sleep hygiene can help you get a good night’s sleep.
Knee pain is the most common musculoskeletal problem that brings people to see the doctor. Knee pain can occur acutely after an injury to the knee. After an injury, substances that cause inflammation invade the knee, which causes further injury, which leads to further inflammation, and so on. This cycle of inflammation leads to continued or progressive knee pain. The cycle can be broken by controlling the substances that cause inflammation, and by limiting further injury to tissue. In general, knee pain is either immediate (acute) or long-term (chronic). Acute knee pains can be caused by an acute injury or infection. Chronic knee pains are often from injuries or inflammation (such as arthritis) but can also be caused by infection.
Libido -- lower sex drive
Around age 50, men and women typically begin to notice changes in their sexual drive, sexual response, or both. A woman’s libido, or sex drive, is thought to wane around the time of menopause. Women produce small amounts of testosterone, commonly considered a “male hormone,” in their ovaries and adrenal glands to help maintain muscle strength, as well as contribute to sex drive. Prior to the onset of menopause, levels naturally begin to wane -- along with sexual desire in an estimated 45% of those perimenopausal women. After natural or surgical menopause, testosterone production drops even more. Oral estrogen therapy can also decrease the amount of testosterone. Decreasing levels or fluctuations in levels of testosterone are not the only cause of decreased sex drive. Often stress, depression, and use of SSRIs (a class of antidepressants) play a big role, as can vaginal dryness and children living at home.
Menopause is the end of a woman's menstrual cycle and fertility and is a normal condition that all women experience as they age. It occurs when the ovaries no longer produce estrogen and progesterone, two necessary hormones for a woman's reproductive cycle to function. Though it naturally occurs with age, menopause may also come on suddenly as a result of a surgical procedure, treatment of a disease, or illness. It can occur as early as the late 30s, or as late as your 60s. The decreasing levels of estrogen associated with menopause may cause distressing symptoms that include mood swings, decreased sex drive, hot flashes, sweating, racing heart (palpitations), headaches, vaginal dryness and soreness, trouble sleeping, bone thinning (osteoporosis). These symptoms can last from a few months to up to 10 years.
Migraines are painful headaches often accompanied by nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light. More women than men get migraines and a quarter of all women with migraines suffer four or more attacks a month. Each migraine can last from four hours to three days. Occasionally, it will last longer. The exact causes of migraines are unknown, although they are related to changes in the brain as well as to genetic causes. Migraines can be triggered by environmental factors including: emotional stress, certain foods and beverages, caffeine, changing weather conditions, menstrual periods, excessive fatigue, skipping meals, and changes in normal sleep patterns.
During pregnancy, the first signs of morning sickness usually develop during the month following the first missed menstrual period, when hormone levels increase. Morning sickness can range from mild, occasional nausea to severe, continuous, disabling nausea with bouts of vomiting. Symptoms may be worse in the morning, though they can strike at any time of the day or night. There is no way of predicting how long your morning sickness will last, even if you have suffered through it before. Nausea and vomiting usually go away by 12 to 14 weeks of pregnancy. But in some cases, morning sickness can last well into a pregnancy. Safe, proven treatments for morning sickness include acupuncture or acupressure, ginger, and vitamin B6 and B12 taken regularly.
Neck, shoulder pain
Neck and shoulder pain can be classified in many different ways. Some people experience only neck pain or only shoulder pain, while others experience pain in both areas. Causes of neck pain include: abnormalities in the bone or joints, trauma, poor posture, degenerative diseases, tumors, or muscle strain. Shoulder pain can stem from one or more of the following causes: strains from overexertion, tendonitis from overuse, shoulder joint instability, dislocation, collar or upper arm bone fractures, frozen shoulder, or pinched nerves (also called radiculopathy).
Osteoporosis is a progressive disease that causes bones to become thin and brittle, making them more likely to break. Osteoporosis may result in broken bones (fractures) in the spine and hip. Hip fractures often require hospitalization, and fractures of the bones in the spine can cause loss of height and severe back pain. Both may lead to permanent disability. Whether you develop osteoporosis depends on the thickness of your bones early in life, as well as health, diet, and physical activity later in life. Osteoporosis is a "silent disease" because typically you do not have symptoms in its early stages. A diagnosis is made using a test that measures bone thickness.
Women develop osteoporosis almost 4 times more often than men. Osteoporosis usually does not have an effect on people until they are 60 or older. Factors that increase the risk of osteoporosis in both men and women include: having a family history of osteoporosis, lifestyle factors (smoking, alcohol use, lack of exercise, diet low in calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D), small or thin-framed individuals, certain medical conditions (hyperthyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis), and certain medications (namely corticosteroids).
Overactive bladder is a condition characterized by the sudden need to urinate. If that need results in the unintentional leakage of urine, the condition is called urge incontinence.
Overactive bladder or urge incontinence results from sudden, involuntary contraction of the muscle in the wall of the urinary bladder. In some cases, the muscle malfunctions because of damage from abdominal or pelvic trauma or pelvic surgery, as a side effect to certain medications, or a neurological disease such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinsons disease, or stroke. In most cases, the underlying reason for the bladder muscle problem is unknown. The symptoms of overactive bladder and urge incontinence include frequent urination, sudden urgency to urinate, involuntary leak of urine (urge incontinence only). Medication and therapy (behavioral and physical) can help, but it doesn't always solve the problem. Using acupuncture has been shown to improve overactive bladder in four areas: incontinence episodes, voiding frequency, urinary urgency, and bladder capacity and therefore may be a better solution.
PMS for all ages
Premenstrual syndrome, commonly called PMS, is a medical condition that affects many women of childbearing age. The exact cause of PMS is unknown, but it seems to be related to the fluctuating levels of hormones, including estrogen and progesterone, that occur in preparation for menstruation. Common symptoms of PMS include: bloating, breast tenderness, weight gain, aggression, trouble concentrating, headaches/backaches, food cravings/overeating, fatigue, tearfulness, irritability, anxiety, mood swings and/or depression. PMS itself cannot be prevented, but through education and appropriate treatment of symptoms, most women can find relief. A healthy lifestyle -- including exercise, adequate rest and a proper diet -- also can help a woman better manage the symptoms of PMS.
Pregnancy and care
Once you think that you are pregnant, contact your doctor to make an appointment and establish your prenatal care schedule. Many factors affect the number of visits you have. Your schedule may vary depending on your personal health as well as your doctor's preference. Additional prenatal care may be necessary if you have any preexisting medical conditions, such as diabetes, and/or complications arise during your pregnancy. However, if all things are going well with your pregnancy, visits are planned around key pregnancy developments and certain tests that need to be performed. The goal of prenatal care is not only to provide the best care for you and your unborn child, but also to prepare you for birth. During prenatal visits, tests are performed on you and your baby to assess any potential risks, to treat any maternal or fetal complications, and to monitor the growth and development of your baby.
Heartburn, also called acid indigestion, is an irritation of the esophagus caused by acid that refluxes (comes up) from the stomach. Gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD is a relatively common condition that affects from 5% to 7% of the population. It is a chronic reflux of stomach contents into the esophagus. This problem manifests itself as several symptoms including heartburn, and difficulty swallowing. Thus, if heartburn symptoms occur frequently (two or more times per week) and persistently, they are most likely caused by GERD. Various lifestyle and dietary factors can contribute to heartburn including eating large portions, eating certain food, drinking certain beverages, eating before bedtime, being overweight, smoking, and pregnancy. Symptoms to look for include: a burning feeling in the chest just behind the breastbone that occurs after eating and lasts a few minutes to several hours, chest pain, especially after bending over, lying down or eating, burning in the throat -- or hot, sour, acidic or salty-tasting fluid at the back of the throat, feeling of food "sticking" in the middle of the chest or throat, belching, chronic sore throat, difficulty or pain when swallowing, waterbrash (sudden excess of saliva), hoarseness, sour taste in the mouth, bad breath, inflammation of the gums, or erosion of tooth enamel (the surface of the teeth).
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