Diseases of Women: STDs. HIV. Genital Warts and Lupus

A recent review article in the March 22, 2006 JAMA reported that the anatomy of a woman makes them particularly vulnerable to certain sexually transmitted diseases. The larger area of moist vaginal surface allows the penetration of certain viruses. Beyond that, in poor countries, cultural, social and economic circumstances drive women to more sexual activity. In Africa, for example, women are three times more likely to contract HIV then men of the same age.

Another less serious but still dangerous virus is one that causes genital warts. If nothing else, they are a social embarrassment and may linger for four years or more before natural immunity makes them disappear.

Women may contract genital warts from men who appear to have no visible warts. Twenty million Americans (7%) carry this virus and five and a half million more contract the disease each year.

But here’s the kicker. This virus just doesn’t cause warts. It is the number one cause of cervical cancer which kills four thousand Americans each year and two hundred and ninety thousand women world wide.

But a woman’s anatomy is not the only thing that makes them more vulnerable to certain diseases. Systemic lupus erythematosis, usually shortened to ‘lupus,’ is an autoimmune disease seen more frequently in women. The disease damages small blood vessels in all the major organs of the body. The condition is prolonged but progressive and usually results in death from kidney failure.

Research has discovered that female hormones stimulate the immune system differently. It has been found that hormone changes at puberty, during pregnancy and at menopause influence the course of lupus. Suppression of female hormones makes lupus better but causes unpleasant side effects like acne and beard growth.

This is not an exhaustive review of diseases found predominately in women but rather adds detail to two categories, STDs and autoimmune diseases,

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