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While efforts are made every day to avoid gender discrimination and bring true equality to all, women still suffer in many areas such as the job market, workplace environments, and even in the medical field. Women are less likely to be given enough pain medicine, experience disparities in health care, and even be misdiagnosed or have problems go unseen. While a rise in female doctors will begin to help some of these problems, many women will still deal with these issues in their lifetime.
When going to see the doctor for pain medicine, women on average are given either insufficient pain medicine or rather given a sedative instead (1). Some assumptions within the medical community as to why this could be is that women are perceived to dramatize their pain as opposed to men who are seen as tough and would be more likely to mitigate their pain. These stereotypes could be what leads to many women to not receive the attention and medication they deserve.
Regardless of the reasoning however, the discrimination that women recieve when needing pain medication is one that should not be overlooked.
When confronted with the idea that women are not getting the proper treatment for their pains, some claim that this is due to biological differences. So the question stands, do women and men feel pain differently? Up until 1993 when the National Institutes of Health passed legislation that would require the inclusion of women’s based research (2), most medical studies excluded women from their research due to the belief that there were not many biological differences between men and women.
In one study done, a researcher by the name of Anita M Unrah found that on average, women tend to experience more severe levels of pain and experienced it for longer and more frequent than men. This brought about women more likely to report some medical conditions most men do not such as migraines (3).
When it comes to biological differences however, some believe that differences in the nervous system could attribute to women experiencing pain differently (4). Between men and women, women tend to have denser sensory receptors and thinner tissue than men. These attributes would correlate to women feeling pain more often than men, rather than women just being sensitive.
Another stigma around why women are taken less seriously when it comes to pain medication could be related to psychological and cultural problems women face. When discussing pain, the importance on how it would affect the ability to care for children is something a woman is more likely to consider than a man would. This factor could lead to women seeing doctors for less serious pains compared to men since men typically only bring up pain when it will directly interfere with work or would be a serious harm to leave alone (5).
With all this being said, women should be receiving the treatment they need. Women’s pain is real and they experience it more than men do due to many factors. Doctors are supposed to be issuing medicine on a case by case system rather than comparing the pain of a woman to what a man would feel if experiencing that same pain.
Another issue women experince discrimination within the medical field is in health care realted incidents. These issues can cause daily inconveniences to even being life threatening. For instance, women are more likely to have heart attacks go unnoticed, be less likely for a knee replacement, and have issues with their female reproductive organs go unnoticed.
Endometriosis is a disease that affects one in ten women worldwide. However, regardless of this affecting 176 million people in the world (6) (Bulun, 2009), a study showed that women on average will be undiagnosed with this problem for eight to ten years (7) (Ahn et al., 2017). This disease can bring infertility and can cause daily pain that could hinder the woman’s ability to perform daily tasks.
Many people have the idea that when a heart attack strikes, the person will clinch their chest and fall over dead. However, this is not always the case. Women are more likely to experience dizziness, nausea, and pain between the shoulder blades when experiencing a heart attack. These symptoms often do not trigger a warning to most doctors that a woman is having a heart attack and will often send the patient home. These issues are what cause women to have a thirteen percent chance of not being diagnosed with a heart attack. (8)
Total joint arthroplasty, also known as TJA, is what many people turn to when physical therapy fails due to its cost effective treatment to restore function to individuals with joint issues and to relieve the pain. Despite its well known benefits, one study showed that women were less likely to of recieved a TJA . According to the study, women were less likely to be on a waiting list or have even been recommended TJA from a physician (9). Studies also showed that women tend to experience more pain post surgery on the chance they do receive the surgery, implying that their problems were left alone for longer by the doctor (10).
Regardless of your views on health care, if you have it, you shouldn’t be limited by it. Women not being able to receive the treatment they need for some even life threatening situations is purely discrimination based on gender. While the issues are being made aware regularly, this problem will still affect many women for many generations to come.
Genetically, women are more likely to have an autoimmune disease. However, this does not mean that these diseases will be diagnosed. While new discoveries are made every day to further help women in the medical field, many women will have autoimmune diseases diagnosed later than they arrive or not diagnosed at all.
While women are less likely to get an infectious disease, they’re more likely to contract and autoimmune disease. In fact, 80% of all autoimmune diseases are diagnosed to women (11). Doctors believe that more than 1.5 million Americans are undiagnosed with an autoimmune disease. One special case was a patient by the name Susannah Callahan.
Sussanah Calahn wrote a book about her experience with a rare autoimmune disease known as NMHDA disorder. The summer of 2019 she started having seizures. She continued having seizures for the next several months and as time went on she started losing control of her body as well as hallucinating. Susannah was hospitalized for four months and in those four months she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, multiple personality disorder and many seizure disorders. However after testing each of these diagnoses were proven wrong. She started getting worse until one day a doctor who had heard about her symptoms came to visit and finally diagnosed her correctly. As soon as they realized it was an autoimmune disease they were able to treat her immediately. However susannah suffered for months due to the lack of knowledge there was on women with autoimmune diseases.
While we see new steps to bring equality to all every day, this doesn’t mean women don’t feel these injustices anymore. A women’s health is not something that should be taken lightly or dismissed because they are seen as too emotional. A rise in female doctors will is a good start to better bring representation of these issues to the forefront, which thankfully is happening. In conclusion, a woman’s body should be respected for what it is.
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