Many women have unexplained long-term health problems: 'It's not a gynecological problem'

Many women have unexplained long-term health problems: ‘It’s not a gynecological problem’

“It’s not a women’s problem, it’s a problem for all of us,” Kaeger said.

Muscle aches, osteoarthritis, underlying underlying pain and other vague complaints: Journalist Miriam Kaiger has wandered with unexplained health problems for ten years. She moved from one doctor to another, but her symptoms were often overlooked as symptoms of menopause or fibromyalgia. “I finally met an unknown woman on an online forum. She told me that my complaint resembled a benign parathyroid tumor, which can have a malignant effect on the organs. This woman had the same experience,” says Kaiger.

Kaijer decided to raise this with her doctors and it turned out that the woman was right. Ultimately, Kaijer performed surgery for this in America, finding that an estimated 1 in 250 women in the United States would be affected. It turns out that it is a disease that affects mainly women. “At first, I wanted to write my book on this topic, because there are still so many unknowns about it in the Netherlands,” says Kaijer. But I soon discovered that the problem was much bigger: 80 percent of patients with unexplained health problems are women, and that’s also true for more than 75 percent of people with autoimmune diseases. I used to be a nurse myself, so I was surprised that I knew nothing about this and never learned it during my training.”

Kaiger asked the American doctor why a benign tumor in the parathyroid glands spread in women. “It turns out that they actually don’t know, because very little research has been done specifically on the female body. Then it sparked my curiosity as a journalist and I decided to write my book about it. Although it is now clear that women’s bodies nurse differently than men’s, it is There’s still a lot we don’t know. Women are often included in medical research. So symptoms can differ in all kinds of cases from men, so that doctors don’t recognize complaints. In addition, women are twice as likely to suffer side effects due to Medicines, because they are often tested primarily on men.”

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for her book I am not a man! Kaijer has not only interviewed many doctors and scientists but has also spoken to many women who, like her, have had unexplained health problems for years. “Many of the women who shared their stories with me were quickly referred to mental health services in their search for a correct diagnosis, often due to hormonal imbalances. As a result, I also started doing more research in our entire culture. You might think the old designations from the last century like” “Hysteria,” “unstable,” and “madness” are all gone, but often that’s not the case, they’ve been packaged differently. Research shows that in women, the psychological rather than the physical cause is seen very quickly.”

Kaijer cites a hormonal imbalance after childbirth or during menopause as an example of a physical cause. This requires the correct treatment, rather than immediate referral to treatment and antidepressants. “There is still a lot of ignorance in this area,” said the doctors I interviewed. “Expressing depression, anxiety, or strong emotions can be an indication that something is not right physically. Then the hormonal imbalance must first be addressed.”

So it’s time for a change, says Kaiger: “As a result of my book, I’ve had a lot of feedback from women who have introduced themselves to this. That’s why I set up an online hotline to map the experiences of women with unexplained health problems. And I started Also in a petition for further research into the female body.” According to the journalist, it is time for the House of Representatives to start working on it. “There are a lot of stories, to listen to. The resort to treatment and medication is much less. Also because women often react to medications differently than men.” For example, Kaijer mentions stories of women who react badly to birth control pills, antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, or sleep medications. “This could be prevented by more appropriately treating women with hormone-related complaints in primary care.”

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“It’s not a female problem,” Kaijer asserts. “It is a problem for all of us. It has a huge impact on families once women end up in the process experiencing stress or menopausal complaints, while they are not physically examined with difficulty and there is something else lurking behind it. In addition, it also costs the community a lot of money If women are misdiagnosed. A lot is still unknown about the female body. It is very important that health care changes and that more research is done.” She hopes her request will make a difference. “It was already known in the last century that the female body gets sick differently from the male, but the urgency is not yet available to everyone.”

Kaijer would also like to see more women’s centers in the Netherlands where they can deal with hormonal complaints. According to her, this helps to reduce the burden on regular health care, because women often have complex problems. Especially in the field of cycle and complaints related to hormones. This ranges from menstruation, taking birth control pills, and pregnancy to menopause. Especially because hormone protection disappears during menopause, women often become more vulnerable during that time. It is very important to have a place to go with all your questions and often many different complaints.”

Many current centers of unexplained health complaints still make a distinction between the soul and the body, while according to Kaijer, who has interviewed several doctors on the topic, you cannot separate the two. “When you have a physical abnormality, your mind will usually be involved as well. And it is often the other way around. So there is still a big step to be taken in that regard.”

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Because of the many stories Kaijer receives from women and different medical experts who share her opinion, the journalist is developing her own programme. “With this we want to offer appreciation for women with unexplained health problems, but also to inform and reflect on them.” Kaijer says women often end up being misdiagnosed for years, end up in psychiatry, don’t feel heard by their GP or specialist or end up in a corner they can no longer handle. King. “Sometimes they don’t even dare to ask for help.”

Kaiger continues, “You also lose a little bit of your identity, if, for example, people keep saying that you might have to slow down or eat healthy or exercise more, while you feel there’s more to it. I’m not saying in any way It is wrong to advise women to adopt a healthy lifestyle, but the most important step for a woman with unexplained health problems is that everything must first be thoroughly examined physically. Not doing so is really a pitfall I still see in women’s stories. Some even The women take morphine because of their complaints, yet in their letters they mainly describe the pain they suffer from losing their identity, faith in themselves and healthcare. They are sometimes considered “hopeless cases”, while sometimes they relate to women who have not been adequately researched yet. This is very sad.”

To bring a platform to women with unexplained health problems, the Women’s Voices Foundation Create where you can donate via Link on

Maryse de BruyneDoco de Vries

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