When I did my medical training, it was one size fits all. Yes, it was a while ago but quite sadly it has not changed. Studies and conditions are mostly carried out and explained based on the male body and you would not be incorrect to deduce that outcomes are less optimal in female patients. I attest to that.
Men and women’s bodies are not the same and should not be cared for in the same manner.
Now I am backed up by the University of Colorado’s Ludeman Family Center for Women’s Health Research publication. According to their article, in over 700 diseases women are under or delayed in their being diagnosed versus men. I first heard the term ‘bikini medicine’ on an NPR program in 2013. The idea is all human bodies in the practice of medicine are the same except in the areas covered by a bikini! Yes, some would say that is ‘sexist’. But the sex of a patient can influence how conditions present, from ADHD to women having heart attacks. You hopefully have heard a woman’s symptoms of a heart attack are totally different from those of a man. These differences, which I’ve covered in previous blog, might include a woman calmly saying her chest discomfort feels like her ‘bra is too tight, a symptom which likely means her heart is talking to her and saying a cardiac event is underway. Nausea, abdominal pain, or fatigue are also common symptoms in women who are experiencing cardiac events. Please read more if you are at risk. Don’t be the woman or loved one sent home or misdiagnosed. A study this year in Circulation determined that the supposed normal Blood Pressure is not accurate for women. It should be lower than the touted ‘120/’ . This is important when a woman presents with a Blood Pressure not elevated for a male, but it is in fact elevated for her.
The belief that men are easier to study has contributed greatly to a skewed application of outcomes. Data is always ‘pooled’. Although very recently women are being included in equal numbers in medical studies. Women’s Health Research at Yale was founded in 1998 to address the “knowledge gap” in understanding women’s health – ALL health, not just obstetrics and gynecology.
In a Journal of Women’s Health study from March of this year, analyses of data from 1.4 million patients, (January 1 and May 1, 2020) found symptom differences and hospitalization differences in women. For example ear, nose, and throat symptoms were more common in women. Few women received blood tests and chest X-rays and were less likely to be hospitalized. What exactly does this mean? Medical bias? Or immunities are different? Research and time will hopefully yield answers.
BOTTOM LINE Sex-specific difference in disease symptoms is real.