09 February 2011

Women's Health: Anemia

I'm fascinated by information on women's health.  Well, really, medical science in general, but especially the medical science that applies to me.  I've recently added a few new blogs to my Reader subscriptions that are science blogs by women, a group previously unrepresented in my reading.

And, unsurprisingly, that addition has unleashed a goldmine of good articles.  My favorite one so far is this one about women and iron-deficiency.  It discusses medical bias in the treatment of anemia in female patients in a (mostly) non-medical-scientist-friendly way.  The article is about how medical practitioners assume that anemia is caused by women's menstrual bleeding when studies show that this is not the case.

Information like this is always fascinating to me.  Does it really indicate an anti-female bias in medicine?  Or is this one of those common misconceptions (like that stress causes ulcers... it's actually a bacterial infection) and doctors just don't question their assumptions?  I could make a case either way.  Ultimately, this just reconfirms for me that everyone should take an active role in their health care.  If you think something is wrong, insist on testing, not opinions.

What do you think?  Ever been on the wrong side of a diagnosis or treatment because of your age or gender?*

*Side note: It drives me nuts that every time I go to the doctor with any symptoms, they insist on a pregnancy test, regardless of my cycle timing.  Just because I am female and of a certain age, not all my symptoms are related to reproduction!


  1. there are a lot of misconceptions in medicine that i think medical professionals just don't bother trying to combat/correct.

    like the myth that going outside on a cold, rainy/snowy day causes you to catch a cold. while it may reduce the effectiveness of your immune system (which could allow cold bugs in your system to gain the upper hand), the cold and precipitation do not themselves cause any sort of sickness!

    or the idea that washing your hands 20,000 times a day with antibacterial soap is good for you. does everyone forget that there are as many GOOD bacteria on your hands as there are bad bacteria; and that by wiping out ALL bacteria, you're not really doing yourself any favors? not to mention the fact that you have to be exposed to sickness in order to build an immunity to it. GAH! (this is a pet peeve of mine) and don't get me started on oral antibiotics and their overuse.

    also: i thought your side note was hilarious, especially since about 2 years ago my cousin went to the doctor about something, but no one thought to give her a pregnancy test (which would have explained a few things). when they finally did the test, she was already 5 months into the 9 month process!

  2. There's actually a Wikipedia article on common misconceptions. I knew a bunch, but I learned some, too. It's at Common Misconceptions and it's a lot of fun to browse through.

    And I completely agree about hand washing and antibiotics. Studies have shown that washing your hands in warm/hot water is 85-90% as effective as using hand soap.

    And, as case-in-point, we're under a "boil water alert" right now because indicator bacteria counts are too high. The related bad science running rampant on Facebook makes me want to scream.