Every year, Women’s Day is observed to celebrate the achievements of women in every walk of life. As 21st-century women, we have learned to prize our personal and professional lives over everything else, but we pay little attention towards our own health and well-being. The society expects more out of us than men to be adept at balancing domestic affairs and excelling at work. In the bargain, we end up impairing our health and psychological wellbeing. Dr Alka Kumar, Gynecologist, S.L Raheja Hospital – A Fortis Associate says that while men and women share most of the common illnesses, there are a few differences that set them apart. This Women’s Day, let us make a pledge towards our own betterment and watch out for these five  illnesses that commonly affect women.

1 Menstrual irregularities

The biggest problems afflicting most women is menstrual irregularities. Women have to endure problems ranging from prolonged to short periods; from heavy to scanty periods; and delayed to frequent periods. The reason, according to Dr Kumar, can be physiological. If you experience menstrual irregularties on a frequent basis, it’s time you sought medical help. “It is important to rule out any underlying medical cause,” says Dr Kumar.

If you are a young woman, the cause for irregular menstrual bleeding could be Polycystic Ovarian Disease or PCOD, thyroid diseases, ovarian cysts or bleeding disorders. In you are in the reproductive age group, heavy bleeding can be due to uterine polyps, endometriosis, adenomyosis (thickening of the uterus), fibroids, ovarian cysts, diabetes and thyroid diseases.

In women who are approaching menopause, menstrual bleeding could also be cause by underlying cancers of the cervix and uterus. That’s why, you shouldn’t take heavy periods lightly. Seek medical attention at the earliest!

2 Urinary Tract Infection

Most women would agree that if there’s anything that can beat period pain is the pain caused by Urinary Tract Infection or UTI. Infection of the bladder and urethra is caused by the bacteria E.coli. Since the urethra is shorter in women, the bacteria don’t have to travel too far to cause an infection. Close proximity to the rectum or anus also make women more prone to UTIs. It’s hard to miss the symptoms of UTI: burning sensation while urinating, frequent urge to urinate, dark coloured urine, pain in the lower back and abdomen and fever are the common signs. If it is left untreated, UTI can also affect women’s kidneys.

3 Obesity

This Women’s Day, let’s look beyond the cosmetic implications of weight gain. Obesity in women is also become common. And obviously, it affects your health, leaving you more susceptible to diabetes, high blood pressure, heart diseases and early osteoarthritis of the knees. In young girls, obesity can cause menstrual irregularities, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), childbirth complications and infertility.

Obese women are also at the risk of developing multiple cancers of the uterus, breast, cervix and ovaries. Depression and low self-esteem is also seen mostly in the obese. Although your bodyweight has also to do with your genetics, metabolism, environment, behaviour and culture, the main cause is a bad lifestyle and diet.

“It’s important to prevent obesity by keeping a healthy diet from womb to womb. The expectant mother should eat healthy during and after pregnancy, breast feed for at least six months to one year. From a very young age, children should be encouraged to to indulge in sports and outdoor games. The elderly should go for walks for at least ½ hours every day,” concludes the doctor.

4 Anxiety and Depression

Women and mood swings is a common trope in many misogynistic jokes. Sadly, making light of it and trivialising it as a “female trait” have become such a tradition that even women don’t realise the seriousness behind it. Depression in women is very common and they are more at risk than men, according to Dr Kumar. “Clinical depression may present itself as a feeling of sadness, hopelessness, low self-esteem and fatigue,” says the doctor. Some of the other signs include restlessness, irritability, feeling worthless, frequent weeping, chronic headache, digestive disorders and chronic pain. Hormonal changes during puberty, pregnancy and menopause worsens this problem.

5 Malignancies or Cancers

Apart from breast and cervical cancers, women are also affected by cancers of the endometrium, ovaries, colon, lung and skin. Most of these cancers are detected in the 40s and the 50s. Luckily, breast cancer can be detected early if you examine your breast for lumps routinely. Getting an ultrasound done every once in a while can detect cancers in the pelvis like endometrial and ovarian cancers. “It is important that women report any irregular menstrual bleeding pattern or lump in the breast to their gynaecologist,” says Dr Kumar. She also adds that women with a history of breast and ovarian cancers should watch out. They should get themselves tested for genes responsible for cancers -- BRCA 1 and BRCA 2.

Dr Kumar says that in young women, these signs become part of premenstrual syndrome or PMS. In women who have given birth, it becomes postpartum depression. And in menopausal and peri-menopausal women, it manifests as anxiety disorder.

The causes for women’s depression include family history; stress at school, workplace or in personal relationships; loss of parents or social support during divorce; and sexual abuse in childhood. Ladies, don’t make light of your emotional problems and seek support as soon as possible.

Irrespective of how fit you may seem, you should never take your health and well being lightly. Here are some important medical tests women in their 20s, 30s and 40s should take. So make a promise to yourself and work towards improving your health this year.

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Mar 06, 2018 12:50 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website latestly.com).