Overview of neurological disorders in women
How women experience neurological diseases differently from men
Neurological Disorders In Women comprise more than half the population in the United States, but until somewhat recently, they weren’t routinely included in clinical trials or other medical research. That changed in 1994 when Congress mandated that scientists begin including women in their studies as a matter of course. Scientists believed that studying male subjects served just as well as including both sexes, but that isn’t always true.
The idea that biological sex is associated with a variety of diseases has gained recognition in the past two decades, thanks to several trends. For example, in 2001, a report from the Institute of Medicine explored the biological contribution of human health, sexual matter? Researchers have found that every cell has sex, and sex differences begin in the womb and continue throughout life. In 2006, two gender-specific organizations were established. Then, in 2016, the National Institute of Health introduced a policy for all scientists applying for research funding to consider the role of sex as a variable in studies involving cells, animals, and humans.
There are notable differences in risk factors, symptoms, and disease progression between women and men with several conditions, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and neurological disorders. Scientists continue to have a better understanding of the anatomical, neurological, chemical, and functional differences in how different medical conditions affect men and women, leading to better diagnosis and treatment.
Men are one and a half times more likely to be diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease than women, according to the Parkinson’s Foundation. Women also tend to be diagnosed much later, long after symptoms are present.
Diagnosis: Because more men than women are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, primary care doctors are less likely to consider it in women who have the symptoms.
Symptoms: Women are more likely to have cognitive changes such as fatigue and stiffness.
Medications: Some medications prescribed for Parkinson’s disease can cause osteoporosis, which increases the risk of developing osteoporosis, especially in women who are already at risk. Women are also more likely than men to experience side effects such as nausea, drowsiness, dizziness, and headaches.
Hormones: Estrogen, the predominantly female hormone, has some protective effect. Researchers believe it can prevent inflammation common in Parkinson’s disease or the hormone increases the release and expression of growth factors in cells that surround neurons responsible for ensuring and maintaining the survival of those neurons.
Menstrual cycle: Young women with Parkinson’s disease experience a toxic cycle when it comes to a difficult period. Medications for Parkinson’s also affect the menstrual cycle, which regulates periods.
Birth control pills: The effects of birth control pills are not well established, but since hormonal fluctuations affect symptoms, using birth control pills can help reduce the length and severity of periods to maintain symptoms.
Pregnancy: There have been many reports of successful pregnancies in women with Parkinson’s disease, but the options must be chosen carefully during pregnancy. Levodopa is safe, but some Parkinson’s disease medications can cause birth defects if taken during pregnancy.
Statistics: Migraines are three times as common in women as in men.
Diagnosis: Women tend to be diagnosed with migraine earlier than men.
Symptoms: Migraine symptoms are generally worse for women, but women are also more likely to get treated for them. However, men have fewer headache days per month, less disability, and less skin sensitivity than women with migraine.
Medications: A class of drugs that constrict blood vessels in the brain, were equally effective for treating migraines in women and men with similar rates of adverse reactions.
Hormones: During perimenopause, migraines may worsen. After menopause, when hormone levels stabilize, most women get better.
Menstrual cycle: Migraines can be “more severe, longer-lasting, and less responsive to treatment [around menstruation]. For migraines that are exacerbated by menstruation, women might take additional medicine or higher doses of the usual drug. To blunt the cyclical hormonal fluctuations, long-acting triptans are often used, but some patients are also placed on hormonal therapy.
Birth control pills: Taking an oral contraceptive can make migraines better or worse, depending on the individual’s response and the type of hormones in the pill. Birth control pills can also decrease the effectiveness of migraine medications, or vice versa, which can increase the chances of an unplanned pregnancy. For example, topiramate (Topamax) can make birth control pills less effective, requiring women to take higher doses to ensure they’re effective.
Pregnancy: Sometimes, migraines get better during pregnancy, although this is less likely for those who have migraine with aura (vision changes such as seeing zigzag or squiggly lines). And some migraine drugs, including divalproex sodium, topiramate, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, may increase the risk of birth defects during pregnancy.