By Riva Preil
Kudos to Laurie Edwards for her recent contribution to The New York Times regarding gender differences in experiencing pain and in responding to medications! Ms. Edwards, a writing teacher at Northwestern University and author of “In the Kingdom of the Sick: A Social History of Chronic Illness in America,” herself suffers from a rare genetic lung disease. Ms. Edwards faced many trials and tribulations over years of misdiagnosis and medical mismanagement, including not being taken seriously by doctors. It is therefore especially appropriate and appreciated that Ms. Edwards advocates in her article on behalf of all women who are faced with similar challenges.
To summarize her wonderful article (which I strongly encourage everyone to read), Ms. Edwards discussed that due to a variety of reasons (ex. hormonal, genetic, and environmental), women respond differently to medications than men. In fact, the FDA recently adjusted the recommended dosage of Ambien for women to half the amount recommended for men because women tend to remain drowsier for longer periods of time. Furthermore, women do not respond to ibuprofen and anesthesia as well as men. In addition, women experience pain differently than men, and they are more likely to develop chronic pain conditions (ex. chronic fatigue syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis) than men. In fact, women are NINE TIMES more likely to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia than men.
The bottom line, ladies, is that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. Unfortunately, much of the research that has been performed to date has focused primarily on men and on how their bodies respond to pain and to medication. As Ms. Edwards points out, it is crucial for equal time, energy, and resources to be spent on research with women. On that note, I strongly urge you to sign the Women’s Initiative in Sexual Health petition and to encourage the U.S. government to support women’s health research. Raise your voice in support of Ms. Edwards and in support of women worldwide in attempt to prevent others from experiencing similar hardships.