Women are often disadvantaged in medicine

Men's and women's health only the same on paper

Numerous studies have shown that women and men get sick differently. Nevertheless, medicine is often only spoken by patients - a gender-neutral group that should address all those affected. According to health experts, this simplified presentation often leads to disadvantages - especially for women.

A group of sick people are patients - grammar wants it to be that masculine. Patients are of course meant here, it is said. But all too often health practice shows that women are meant, but not considered. The imbalance can be seen in several fields: Many diseases are recognized later in women than in men, and many drugs are more likely to be examined for their effects on men.

Men's health club

But the problem often begins earlier, explains Ingrid Mühlhauser, professor of health sciences at the University of Hamburg and chair of the women's health working group. "We have a men's club in the power structures of the healthcare system," she says. "And that determines what is researched."

The result: Many diseases and issues that affect women in particular have hardly been researched or inadequately researched, for example endometriosis, i.e. cysts and inflammation on the ovaries, for example - a disease with many sufferers who often suffer massive pain, but only so little researched.

Effects on common diseases

Not only women-specific diseases are affected by the imbalance, but also the so-called common diseases such as diabetes, but also the heart attack. Take a heart attack, for example: Many still consider a heart attack to be a purely male illness. This is no longer true, says Christiane Tiefenbacher, chief physician for cardiology at the Marienhospital in Wesel and member of the scientific advisory board of the German Heart Foundation.

Heart attacks are often different for women than for men

However, the heart attack in women is somewhat different than in men. The symptoms are often atypical, as doctors say: “Abdominal and back pain, for example, instead of the classic chest tightness,” explains Tiefenbacher. As a result, even professionals often recognize a heart attack in women late or even too late.

There are still other shortcomings, the expert explains: "Even if the suspicion arises early, women are less likely to undertake extensive examinations, instead they are observed longer." The prescribed medications are often different - and not necessarily more suitable.

Diabetes in women: misdiagnosis thanks to fasting blood sugar

Like the heart attack, type 2 diabetes is often considered a male disease, even among doctors. Accordingly, it is often discovered early in men. "For many women, on the other hand, we only find the complications after the first heart attack," says Julia Szendrödi, deputy director of the Clinic for Diabetology at the University Hospital Düsseldorf.

The misdiagnosis often has a very simple reason. "When the family doctor tests for type 2 diabetes, he often takes fasting blood sugar," explains the expert. "In women with type 2 diabetes, however, it is often still within the normal range in the early phase of the disease." The diagnosis is then: no diabetes - and therefore no urgently needed treatment. "Men have type 2 diabetes a little more often - but women lose more healthy years of life and have a higher mortality rate."

Many doctors have prejudices

Here too there are psychological causes - for example when it comes to treatment. "There is often a prejudice among doctors that women take care of it anyway," says Szendrödi. "In fact, it is the case that many women still take care of the family first and only then after themselves." The women and their surroundings can do something about it. From Szendrödi's perspective, doctors are particularly in demand.

First improvements in sight

After all, Szendrödi and cardiologist Tiefenbacher say: There is improvement in sight. The problem is now present and also plays a role in the training of doctors. However, patients should still have it on the screen, says Tiefenbacher: "We advise affected women to actually address the topic in a targeted manner and to request an intensive examination." (Vb; source: Tobias Hanraths, dpa)

For more information, see the article: Gender Medicine: Definition, History, and Examples.

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