Ow, It Hurts. REALLY.

Not a surprise but a recent study has found that not only do women react differently to certain medications than men (and are in danger of overdosing on many common over-the-counter and prescription drugs), but we feel pain more, too.

According to Tara Parker Pope, women in the study had pain levels 20% higher than men.

Doctors put it down to women's hormones, organ size relative to men's, more fatty tissue and other causes that are feminine in nature and may cause medication to be absorbed, or not, differently than for men.  Since almost all studies have been based on men (hence, women not realizing they're having a heart attack when they feel nauseous and their jaw hurts vs. men's pain in the chest), there's still an awful lot we don't know about medicine, women, and pain. But here's the worst part.

Laurie Edwards notes in the NYT Sunday Review that anesthesia can be a problem for women and even something as relatively benign as Ambien lingers in a woman's body much longer than a man's.  We metabolize drugs differently, she says.

But here's the kicker. For most of medical history, many doctors have put down women's pain as "emotional."  That's right.  It's all in her mind.  Parker Pope writes that this needlessly causes some women to be treated for mental health issues, delaying and complicating their real diagnoses.

Edwards also reports that approximately 25% of people report chronic pain and of that number, women are disproportionately in the majority.  To make our situation even more unpalatable, women are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and chronic fatigue sydrome two to three times greater than men.

And while we're on the subject of chronic fatigue syndrome -- know why it's been labeled as hypochondria, a figment of the imagination and not really real?  Because mostly women are diagnosed with it.

So what do we do?  Be on the alert, the authors say, for these gender differences when doctors are prescribing medicine, or you are taking OTC drugs.  Ask if the drug has been studied in women.  If your doc is the more approachable type, talk to him about this.  If your doc's a woman, she'll already know.




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