5 ‘Women’s’ Diseases That Men Can End Up Getting

It might be easy to think of certain health issues as strictly “women’s” diseases, but just because a condition typically afflicts females doesn’t mean there aren’t exceptions. Take depression, for example. Though not normally considered a women’s disease, you may know that women are thought to be twice as likely to suffer from depression as men. Additionally, men who do have depression are much less likely to seek mental health services, in part because they are not usually socialized to be comfortable asking for help.

In this way, the stakes can be even higher when you are in the minority among sufferers of your health condition. Men may not be screened regularly, as women are, for some of the following diseases, so they can be easy to miss. Some conditions, such as thyroid problems and bladder infections, are more common in females because of biological and hormonal differences. Now, let’s look at some of the major diseases and afflictions you may not have known males can contract too. Although these may be fairly uncommon in men, it’s important to watch for the signs of the following conditions and seek treatment when necessary.

1. Breast cancer

a man talking to his doctor

Men can get breast cancer, too. | iStock.com

Breast cancer is about 100 times less common among men than women. Women get breast cancer more frequently because they have more breast tissue. The American Cancer Society estimates about 2,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in American men in 2016. Men often don’t see the warning signs, so the cancer can progress and mean a worse prognosis for men. Watch for the warning signs and symptoms, such as unusual lumps or skin abnormalities in the chest. Some risk factors include a family history of breast cancer, being over the age of 50, obesity, and heavy drinking.

2. Osteoporosis

a man in pain

Women usually get osteoporosis, but men can get it too. | iStock.com

About 20% of people with osteoporosis are men. It’s often called a “silent disease” because it can progress slowly, without symptoms, until a fracture happens. Women develop osteoporosis in greater numbers in part because they have smaller skeletons. In men, bone loss typically starts later and progresses more slowly, and they also lack the period of rapid hormonal change and bone loss that women experience. As life expectancy continues to rise, osteoporosis in men is expected to increase as well. Caucasian men appear to be at particularly high risk, and other risk factors include unhealthy lifestyle habits and undiagnosed low testosterone levels.

3. Eating disorders

a sick man looking in the mirror

Men can have eating disorders, too. | iStock.com

Approximately 10% of eating disordered individuals are male. The myth that eating disorders such as binge-eating disorder, anorexia, and bulimia only impact women can be dangerous, as it leads many men to ignore the symptoms. Gay men are over-represented in many samples of eating disordered men, and some research suggests they may be at greater risk because of cultural pressures to be thin. There is also a psychological disorder called muscle dysmorphia, sometimes referred to as bigorexia, in which sufferers think they are too small and weak despite excessive weight lifting and supplement use. This can lead to binging, dangerous overuse of supplements, and steroid use.

4. Lupus

man with knee pain

Lupus doesn’t just affect women. | iStock.com

Although 90% of people diagnosed with lupus are women, men can also develop this autoimmune disease. The symptoms vary from person to person, but they are similar in men and women and can include achy and swollen joints, unexplained fever, hair loss, prolonged or extreme fatigue, mouth or nose sores, a butterfly-shaped rash across the cheeks and nose, sensitivity to light, and seizures. While the cause of lupus remains unknown, something is believed to trigger the immune system to attack various areas of the body. Female hormones are believed to play a role in the disease’s development since women of reproductive age are most commonly afflicted.

5. Fibromyalgia

Man with a severe headache

Know the symptoms so you can ask your doctor if you have this disease. | iStock.com

Fibromyalgia is a disease characterized by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. It is unknown what causes fibromyalgia and why so few men suffer from it. An estimated 5 million adults have fibromyalgia in the U.S., but as few as 10% are men. Chronic pain is the condition’s chief symptom, but other complaints often come along with it, such as chronic fatigue, insomnia, headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, and restless legs syndrome. Men’s symptoms tend to be milder, but cases in men are more likely to go undiagnosed or even be denied by medical professionals, which can mean greater suffering mentally and socially.

“It’s a tough deal for a man to have fibromyalgia,” Randy Wold tells WebMD. “One of my best friends doesn’t believe I have it. His wife, who is a doctor, told him men can’t get it, that it is in my head.”