17 Diseases That Are More Common in Women Than in Men
Arthritis, lupus, and Alzheimer's affect more women than men.
Unfortunately—for reasons both known and unknown—some illnesses are just more likely to show up in women than they are in men. And though some of these diseases (like celiac disease and lupus) are autoimmune and therefore can't be prevented, others can be protected against. Because ladies should know what they're up against, we've rounded up some of the diseases that affect women more than men.
Though it is possible for a man to develop breast cancer, women are much more likely to within their lifetimes. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer in the white community is approximately 100 times less common among men than women, and in the black community, 70 times less common among men than women.
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
According to the National Kidney Foundation, the female population has a higher prevalence of UTIs than men. Experts believe that because women have shorter urethras—the ducts that help excrete urine from the bladder—they are more susceptible to bacterial transmissions in the genital area.
Though arthritis affects more than one in four adults, the disease is more commonly seen in women than men. The Arthritis Foundation notes that generally speaking, doctor-diagnosed arthritis is seen in 26 percent of women and 18 percent of men.
It has long been known that women are more at risk of developing Alzheimer's than men. In fact according to a 2019 report from the Alzheimer's Association, of all the Americans with the disease, approximately two-thirds are female.
The reason behind this is still something of a mystery, though one possible explanation was discovered recently by researchers at Stanford University when they studied a variant of ApoE-4, a gene that increases the risk of Alzheimer's. In their research, they found that while women who had the gene were twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's compared to women without it, the presence of the gene in men had hardly any relationship to their likelihood of developing the disease.
Small Vessel Disease
Small vessel disease is a heart condition characterized by damage in the walls of the small arteries in the heart. Though things like smoking and high blood pressure increase a person's risk of the disease regardless of gender, the Mayo Clinic notes that it's still more generally seen in women than in men.
Lupus is a chronic (or recurring) autoimmune disease that can attack everything from blood cells to the brain. According to the Lupus Foundation of America, this immunity-impairing illness is most commonly seen in adult women, though women of color are two to three times more at risk than white women.
For men and women alike, strokes are a significant cause for concern. However, women need to be slightly more vigilant than men: While strokes are the fifth leading cause of death for men, they are the third leading cause for women, according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Doctors have known for a long time that women are more likely than men to get multiple sclerosis (MS), but they're just beginning to learn why. In 2014, a group of researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis studied the brains of both men and women with MS, hoping to discover some noticeable differences. The results? They found that women vulnerable to the disease had significantly higher levels of S1PR2, a blood vessel receptor protein that aids in the process causing MS.
If you love carbohydrate-heavy foods like pasta and bread, then the last thing you'd want to be diagnosed with is celiac disease. People with this disease can't eat anything with the protein gluten in it—so wheat, rye, and barley—and if they do, they can expect abdominal cramps and multiple trips to the bathroom. Bad news for women, then: According to the Celiac Disease Center at the University of Chicago School of Medicine, this autoimmune disease is more frequently diagnosed in women.
Women are more vulnerable to some mental health issues as well. According to one 2015 study published in the Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience, 5.5 percent of women globally had a diagnosis of depression in 2010, compared to just 3.2 percent of men.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Anywhere from 10 to 15 percent of the population globally suffers from IBS, a gastrointestinal disorder that causes cramping, bloating, and other painful issues. And of the people who suffer from the syndrome, approximately 60 percent are female and 40 percent are male, according to the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders.
When Nepalese researchers analyzed the rates of various thyroid diseases in men and women, they found that overall, thyroid disorders are eight times more common in women. More specifically, they found that while 47 percent of women in their study presented with hypothyroidism, just 19 percent of men did.
Graves' disease is a type of autoimmune disorder that is characterized by an overstimulation of the thyroid. According to Hackensack Meridian Health, the condition is most often diagnosed in younger and middle-aged women, particularly those who have family members with the same disease.
"One of the most important risk factors [of gallstone disease] is female gender," wrote the authors of one study published in the German journal Wiener Medizinische Wochenschrift. Women are two to three times more likely to develop gallstones than men, especially if they have been pregnant before.
Though one in three people overall have asthma, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America notes that 9.8 percent of women over the age of 18 have the respiratory disorder, compared to just 5.4 percent of men.
Type 1 Autoimmune Hepatitis
There are several different types of hepatitis, a disease that causes inflammation and damage in the liver. One such type is type 1 autoimmune hepatitis, which often manifests at a young age and is most commonly seen in women, many of whom have other autoimmune conditions.
Osteoporosis more commonly affects women than men. However, though approximately 80 percent of all Americans with osteoporosis are female, it's a condition that every individual needs to worry about as they age. This disease causes the bones to become so brittle that even an action as minor as sneezing can cause a fracture.