The laundry list of gender gaps is doing no favors to women today, even as a new one is being discovered on a daily basis and now women are facing the gender pain gap which they have been subjected to for centuries. The medical industry has found that there is a big difference in the way men and women respond to medication and the fact that a bulk of drugs are tested on men means that researchers don’t have much information on how they react in women. Recently, in the US, it was announced that the dosage for the drug Ambien had to be cut in half for women since it was causing double the drowsiness in women than in men. Women’s bodies work vastly different as compared to men, thanks to hormonal cycles, smaller organs, higher body fat, all of which affect the way drugs behave in the body. Today, women report more chronic pain and fatigue than men in India and all over the world, but this has been largely ignored by medical professionals.
Women’s pain is often branded as emotional
In the US, in a report titled, ‘Relieving Pain in America,’ it was found that women do suffer more pain than men, but it is often dismissed because pain is a subjective symptom and differs from person to person. Women’s pain is often branded as emotional, “psychogenic” which is reminiscent of the once archaic “women’s hysteria”. Another study, titled, ‘The Girl Who Cried Pain: A Bias Against Women in the Treatment of Pain,’ stated that women have a tendency to receive aggressive treatment for their pain when diagnosed or it is dismissed as “all in your head”.
Women are being treated for depression when it doesn’t even exist
Moreover, abdominal pain connected to gastrointestinal disease and gynecological further complication the issue since so many women report symptoms. When such pain is written off as a mental health issue, women are being treated for depression when it doesn’t even exist. The fact is that anti-depressants get absorbed in female bodies differently than men. Some are also declared as psychiatric patients when they are clearly not. Christin Veasley, co-founder, and director at the Chronic Pain Research Alliance, “Women have been more often referred to psychologists or psychiatrists, whereas men are given tests to rule out actual organic conditions.”
Truth be told, pain is subjective
Also, gynecological problems like period cramps and pain are some of the symptoms that are slighted time and again since they are called natural and a part of being a menstruating female. In spite of many conditions like PCOS and Endometriosis going undiagnosed for years because many doctors ignore pain, these threatened not only the quality of life of the women affected but also their fertility and sexual health. One woman said, “Asked to describe my level of pain throughout the day on a scale of 1 to 10 was next to useless when I had nothing to compare it to. Pain is entirely subjective: I once spent three days limping around on a broken ankle, while a friend insisted we call an ambulance when he mildly sprained his because he said he had “never experienced such pain in his life.”
Women in the ER are not taken as seriously as men
Studies show that women are made to wait for an average of 65 minutes before receiving an analgesic for acute abdominal pain while in the ER, while men, on the other hand, wait for about 45 minutes. Also, women who are admitted to the ER are not taken as seriously as men and as a result, their cases were not declared as an emergency. Esther Chen, an emergency medicine doctor, said, “it’s hard to tease out whether it’s simply implicit bias – which all of us have – or whether it’s the way we judge women and pain in terms of their presentation for different clinical conditions.”
Before 1990, almost all clinical trials for drugs were conducted on men
Digging deeper, the problem begins in the testing of drugs which usually conducted on male mice and then mater on men. Hormones play a big role in the way drugs behave and are absorbed in men and women, while men have relatively stable hormones, women don’t; it’s one of the reasons why women are able children. Estrogen plays a big role in pain; it alters the perception of pain and the way the body responds to painkillers. Therefore, the knowledge we have on various diseases and their treatments are based on male physiology; the symptoms of heart attacks are different in men and women and as a result, women’s symptoms are ignored. Before the year 1990, almost all clinical trials for drugs were conducted on men in the US. “When the history of an ailment, including the definition of textbook cases, is largely being written by men about men, it becomes the precedent to which anyone else is held up,” said, Abby Norman, author of Ask Me About My Uterus. A majority of doctors think that women, in general, pay too much attention to their bodies and so make a mountain out of a model and that they should simply relax and ignore these symptoms.
Hence, there is needs to be a massive push for medical treatments to be individual rather than general since there is a big difference between men and women with their gender-specific diseases. However, general conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and chronic migraine must never be generalized since what works for men may not work for women. No one should ever have to suffer in silence women or men, therefore it’s high time the medical fraternity addresses our pain with the respect it deserves.
Image credit: McGuiness Law