Gender Matters When It Comes to Medical Care

Men and women may be similar when it comes to many things, but medical care is proving to be a place where gender truly does make a difference. Treatments, conditions, and even vaccinations can require different preparation and understanding when treating those of different genders. While physical differences between the sexes have never really been in contention, in recent years it has become clear that even issues that affect both men and women can be very different to treat and diagnose in each.

While men and women have hearts identically shaped and functioning hearts, doctors are coming to realize that when this organ is in trouble the signs can be pretty different in men and women. Women who suffer a heart attack are often older than their male counterparts and will experience different pain symptoms when suffering a heart attack, including shoulder and neck pain and nausea. The heart attack itself may be harder to track in women as well, with many not showing results on an EKG typical of heart attacks. Because of this, many don’t receive the treatment they need as quickly as men. The differences don’t stop there, however, and treatments for heart attacks can be more or less effective in women than in men and come with different levels of risk.

Of course, heart attacks aren’t the only way in which men and women differ medically. Recent studies have shown that women and men may react differently to vaccinations. Greater antiviral, inflammatory and cellular immune responses may occur in women than in men, and some researchers think this may be do to hormonal differences between men and women. Additionally, the negative side effects of many vaccines were found in much higher instances in women than in men, promoting some to advocate for different, gender-tailored vaccines in the future.

The list of differences between men and women when it comes to drug reactions isn’t limited to vaccines, as researchers have found that men and women have different reactions to anesthetics as well as a wide range of other drugs. These differences may be small but they can lead to potentially dangerous situations for doctors who are unaware that they exist.

While men and women may have move towards equality in society, it’s clear that biologically differences between the sexes when it comes to medical treatment need further research to better understand how each sex responds to medication, vaccination and disease so treatments can be more effectively tailored to the needs of patients.