FATIGUE: UNSUSPECTED CAUSES

I came across an interesting article today that listed several reasons why people become fatigued. Three of which I think are very beneficial to women’s health. These topics that I will discuss include anemia, undiagnosed urinary tract infection, and dehydration.

Anemia

Anemia is the primary cause of fatigue among women today. Anemia means that a person has fewer red blood cells than the normal level. Anemia associated with women can be caused by heavy menstruation with the loss of blood, leading to iron deficiency. When a person has fewer red blood cells than normal, less oxygen can be transported to the bodies’ tissues and organs; which can make women feel tired and weak. In order to fix this deficiency, women should take iron supplements and eat an iron-rich diet (such as lean meat, beans, and enriched cereal).

Undiagnosed Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

A woman usually knows when she has a UTI by her need to urinate frequently, and the burning sensation she feels when she urinates. But this is not always the case, symptoms may not always be obvious and oftentimes the only symptom is fatigue. If your Doctor suspects that you have a UTI, he or she will take a quick and easy urine sample to confirm the diagnosis. The UTI can then be easily treated with antibiotics.

Dehydration

Fatigue may also be a sign of dehydration. If you feel thirsty at all that means you are already dehydrated. It is important to drink water throughout the day so that your urine stays a light color. If your urine has turned a dark color, you should drink fluids immediately; this means that you are dehydrated. If you are going to work out drink at least two cups before your workout, continue to drink throughout your work out, and drink at least another two cups afterwards.

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Tanning: It’s a love-hate relationship

Many of us have tried tanning at least once in our lives. I have been educated on its harmful effects ever since I was little, but nevertheless have still gone a few times. When I was getting married I justified my behavior saying, this is the one time in my life I can have a tan and not worry about it. I would rather look good, having that golden glow on my wedding day, then care about the harmful UV light I was exposing my body to. I figured one month of tanning would not be that bad for me. I was absolutely wrong! That month of tanning was just enough to increase my risk of skin cancer immensely.

Regardless of the fact that more than a million people a year are diagnosed with skin cancer, thousands of people are still visiting tanning beds on a regular basis.  I found a frightening statistic in a recent article I read, stating that your risk of skin cancer is increased by 75 percent if you use tanning beds before age 30. It also states that experts have moved tanning beds to the highest cancer risk category, “carcinogenic to humans” which means it is in the same category as tobacco and arsenic.

Skin cancer is one of the most easily preventable forms of cancer, so why are educated people still tanning? People who smoke know the risks of developing cancer through smoking, yet they continue to do it; just as those who tan.  While cigarette smoking is restricted to those of a certain age, the World Health Organization is also hoping to limit those less than 18 years old from tanning, and encourage people of all ages not to tan.

Among women ages 25 to 29, melanoma is the leading cause of cancer deaths. In women ages 30 to 34 it is the second leading cause of death, with breast cancer being the first.  According to the National Cancer Institute women’s risk of developing malignant melanoma is 55 percent greater for those who use tanning beds more than once a month. With such overwhelming statistics hopefully women can soon understand the risks that they are taking when they tan and use their knowledge to prevent skin cancer.

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Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is the most common hormonal disorder among women of reproductive age and the most common cause for infertility. With more and more women becoming infertile I think that this syndrome is worth mentioning. Lately, I have done a lot of research on this topic because it runs in my family and I was recently tested for it. Although I tested negative, it is something that I want to continue researching so that I am well educated on the subject in case one of my future  daughters inherits it from me.

PCOS  occurs in 5 to 10% of women and results in a variety of symptoms. Most of these symptoms are related to an increase in male hormones and menstrual disturbances but may also cause:

  • Acne
  • Excess hair growth
  • Male-pattern hair loss
  • Obesity and weight gain
  • Insulin resistance
  • Dandruff
  • Infertility
  • High cholesterol levels
  • High blood pressure
  • Multiple cysts in the ovaries

All women with PCOS will have irregular or no menstrual periods, as a result they do not regularly ovulate which is why they typically have difficulty getting pregnant. Most of the symptoms of PCOS are caused by changes in hormone levels but no one really knows what causes PCOS. It seems to be genetic based so if your mother or sister has it or irregular menstrual cycles, you are more likely to have it.

Treatment:

If you do have PCOS, exercise is absolutely imperative along with a heart-healthy diet in order to help reduce your chances of diabetes or heart disease. In order to reduce symptoms a birth control pill may be prescribed in order to regulate your periods and reduce symptoms such as excess facial hair or acne. Metformin (used to treat diabetes) might also be used in order to restore menstrual flow and fertility.

PCOS is not only hard on people physically but can also take an emotional toll. With acne, extra weight, facial hair, and other physical manifestations, people with PCOS may feel like they are ugly or that they do not meet society’s criteria for being beautiful. For those who feel that way know that you are not alone. More woman than you know are suffering from this same thing. There are support groups online and other helps such as counselors to help you deal with it if needs be.

I found this video on youtube on PCOS awareness and thought it would be appropriate to share:

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Postpartum Depression: More than just the blue’s

One topic that I find particularly interesting is postpartum depression. I never realized how big of a deal it actually is until one of my professors shared his experience with postpartum depression with our class. After the birth of his first child his wife suddenly changed. Instead of being positive and optimistic about life she was always down and could not get herself to do anything. In fact, it got so bad that my professor actually thought about divorce (which he promised himself was never an option). One day when he got home from work he found his wife and sister-in-law at his house. His wife was having a complete meltdown lying down in their van saying she did not want to live anymore. With the stress of the baby and her feelings of worthlessness she just could not take it. Well, they ended up taking her to the hospital and admitting her to the psych ward where she was diagnosed with postpartum depression. With proper medication and therapy she came out of her depression and their marriage was saved.

Many moms experience postpartum blues, which include mood swings and crying spells, but 8-20% experience a more severe form of depression known  as postpartum depression. Postpartum depression usually happens about 4 weeks after a woman delivers her baby but can occur up to a year later. Symptoms are usually the same as major depression, but additional symptoms include:

  • Agitation or irritability
  • Decreased appetite
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Insomnia
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Negative feelings towards the baby
  • Loss of energy
  • Socially isolated
  • Loss of interest in sex

You are at a higher risk for postpartum depression if you:

  • Smoke or use illegal drugs
  • Did not want to be pregnant
  • Have an immediate family member with depression
  • Have little support from family or friends

Treatment includes therapy medication, or a combination of both. There are several medications that can be given to breastfeeding mothers. Those experiencing postpartum depression should know that it is simply a complication from birth but that prompt treatment is important to manage their symptoms.

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The Joys of Being a Woman

I am positive that where I grew up the boys learned the abbreviation PMS without even knowing what the actual word stood for. Whenever a girl was having a bad day they would automatically assume that they were “PMSing” and that they needed to stay away from them for a few days. I recently watched an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond about this very thing. In the episode Ray recognizes Debra’s annoyed reaction to everything that he does, checks the calendar, and realizes that he is in for a long couple of days. But if you have ever seen this show then you will know Ray makes the problem even worse, aiding Debra to go through a roller coaster of emotions.

Watch Debra’s explosion here:

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PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome)  is a combination of emotional, physical, psychological, and mood disturbances that usually occur after ovulation and ending before menstrual flow. It is estimated that 3 out of 4 women experience PMS.

Symptoms include:

  • irritability
  • depression
  • crying spells
  • oversensitivity
  • sadness
  • anger
  • fatigue
  • bloating
  • breast tenderness
  • acne
  • changes in appetite
  • headache
  • weight gain from fluid retention
  • Constipation or diarrhea

Although this list is long those experiencing PMS may not be experiencing all of these symptoms.

In some cases PMS is so extreme that women may exhibit Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). PMDD is believed to affect 2-6% of women today. PMDD symptoms include severe depression, feelings of hopelessness, anger, anxiety, irritability, low self-esteem, and difficulty concentrating. Women suffering from PMDD may also have an underlying psychiatric disorder.

Although PMS may affect you it can be dealt with. A few ways to help reduce your symptoms include:

  • Consuming calcium daily
  • Exercise
  • Consuming Vitamin E regularly
  • Eating a balanced diet
  • Over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen or Midol

For more tips click here.

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HPV Vaccine: Controversy or Common Sense?

In my opinion, the discovery of vaccinations is one of the most remarkable advances in public health. One vaccine I find particularly astonishing is for HPV (Human Papillomavirus). This vaccine actually reduces your likelihood for developing cervical CANCER through immunizing you against the four most common strains of HPV. These specific strains are linked to about 70% of cervical cancer cases, therefore if all women were to receive this vaccine we would see a significant decrease in cervical cancer rates. But women are not getting this vaccine, why? In a recent article I read it said that only 1/3 of girls are receiving this vaccine. Do people realize that this vaccine reduces your chance of CANCER, one of America’s top killers today?

Human Papillomavirus is spread sexually, consequently making opponents believe this is a “sex vaccine” and that only promiscuous people need. Some parents have gone into moral outrage thinking that by giving their children this vaccine they are giving them a free ticket to have active sex lives. I for one do not think that this vaccine should be as controversial as parents believe. I believe that this is a health issue, not moral issue. I
hope that oppositional parents will understand that this vaccine is meant to prevent HPV, hence it needs to be administered before their child is sexually active. Even though their child may not be a sexually active teenager, they will most likely become sexually active sometime in their lives, and therefore they are at risk for the virus.

I do not believe it is inappropriate to vaccinate your child against sexually transmitted diseases. Parents have medical personnel administer a Hepatitis A vaccination after birth so that their child does not have to suffer this infectious disease. I think parents should try to see this vaccination just as they have seen previous ones their child has received. The HPV vaccine is given to so that their child will not acquire a virus that could ultimately lead to cervical cancer.

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease worldwide. In the USA 80% of women will have obtained some strain of HPV by the time they are fifty. With such alarming numbers I absolutely agree with the American cancer society and the Advisory committee of Immunizations that girls should receive this vaccine.

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Toxoplasmosis: A Danger to Pregnant Women

I recently heard a story from one of my professors of a pregnant woman having an overwhelming craving for raw hamburger meat. This woman having almost an animalistic craving ate handfuls of raw meat that she was getting ready to freeze. With no symptoms herself she thought no harm was done. When it came time for delivery, she gave birth do a perfectly healthy boy, or so she thought. It was not until years later that toxoplasmosis was manifest as the boy lost his eye sight,  by then toxoplasmosis was too late to treat.

Many people do not know when they have toxoplasmosis because most of the time symptoms do not appear. More than 60 million people in the U.S. have this parasite but do not get sick. In newborns, it is usually the same case. But without treatment infected babies can have mild to severe brain damage and blindness that does not appear until up to 20 years later.

Toxoplasmosis isn’t always caused by such extreme cases such as eating handfuls of raw meat. It can also be caused by something as simple as a cat. Women who are pregnant should never change litter boxes and should be very careful around sand boxes or gardens where wild cats could have defecated. It is important that women do not eat raw meat. They should make sure that meat is always cooked all the way through (up to 160 degrees F).

One of the best places to learn about toxoplasmosis is from the brochure, “Toxoplasmosis: An Important Message for Women”. This brochure explains what precautions you should take while having a cat, and how you should handle your meat. Women who are thinking of becoming pregnant should follow there precautions throughout their entire pregnancy.

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