About YOUR Health: Eating Disorder, Lupus, Genital Warts

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Women's Health Activist Newsletter
March/April 1997

Questions and Answers from the NWHN Women's Health Information Clearinghouse

Q: A friend was diagnosed with an eating disorder. What does this mean and what signs could I have recognized? What can I do?
A: Women compose the majority of people with eating problems. This stems from the notion that a thin body represents success, self-control, attractiveness, and self-worth. Only 5% of American women have bodies which fit our culture's ideal of attractiveness, so it is not surprising that many women grow up with negative body images which sometimes result in eating disorders. Anorexia nervosa (defined by starvation and over exercise) and bulimia nervosa (including cycles of binge eating followed by vomiting, fasting and over exercise) are two eating disorders. Anorexics will become noticeably thin, while a bulimic's body weight may be normal or can vary.

Bulimia is easier to hide than anorexia. People who suffer from either eating disorder will experience gastrointestinal disorders, fatigue or fainting, and irritability and mood swings. Bulimics and anorexics, usually women between ages 17 and 25, have a negative body image and suffer from depression, guilt, and self hatred about their weight. Because of this guilt, they may avoid family and friends. Bulimics may have dental problems and a chronic sore throat from repeated vomiting.

Anorexics may experience weight loss leading to a body weight 15% below normal. Women will experience amenorrhea, an absence of menstrual periods. They have very restricted eating habits and feel best when not eating. An anorexic will have an intense fear of becoming obese, even when she is underweight. Physically, an anorexic will have excessive hair loss and dry skin. She may experience lethargy, hyperactivity, or hypersensitivity to cold.

Once the eating disorder is recognized, various approaches can be used to treat both disorders, such as enlisting family support, providing nutrition counseling and intensive psychotherapy. Behavior modification therapy and drug therapy are other options. Patients who have life-threatening complications may require hospitalization; otherwise treatment is usually on an outpatient basis.
Contact the Clearinghouse to order the Network packet on eating disorders.

Q: What is Lupus?
A: Lupus is a chronic systemic autoimmune disease which causes inflammation of various parts of the body. The word chronic refers to the fact that lupus is a lifelong diagnosis. However, this does not mean that the lupus patient will always be suffering from the symptoms of lupus. Systemic means that the disease can affect all parts of the body. Lupus most commonly affects the skin, kidneys, heart, lungs, muscles, blood, joints, and brain. Each woman will experience the disease in a different way, but rarely does the disease target more than just a few areas of the body in any one individual. An autoimmune disease is a disease in which the body's immune system fights the healthy body as it would an outside invader like a virus or bacteria. Lupus is not related to AIDS, is not contagious, and varies in severity.
There are five types of Lupus:
•    Discoid lupus is generally limited to the skin.
•    Neonatal lupus affects newborn babies and is rare.
•    Drug induced lupus is caused by an adverse reaction to certain drugs. This makes up approximately 30% of all lupus cases.
•    Late-onset lupus is the term for lupus that is acquired after approximately age 55.
•    Systemic lupus erythematosus affects the entire body.
Women who experience lupus may report aching weakness, fatigue, low-grade fever, chills and loss of appetite. Lupus is diagnosed though a blood test and clinical symptoms.
For more information, order the Autoimmune Disorders packet from the Clearinghouse

Q: What causes genital warts and how are they treated?
A: Genital warts are small benign growths, also called condylomata, found around the vulva and inside the vagina in women and on the shaft of the penis in men. They are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV) which is transmitted by direct sexual contact and is highly contagious. Genital warts can be treated with certain chemicals, such as podophyllin and trichloroacetic acid, or by cryosurgery (freezing), cauterization (burning), laser surgery or surgical excision. Treatment method depends on size and number of warts. Even if treatment is effective, the chance for recurrence is high which will require treatment to be resumed. Spread of the virus can be minimized, but not completely avoided in some cases with theuse of a condom during sexual intercourse. Oral contraceptives and pregnancy sometimes stimulate the spread of the warts.
For more information, order the Sexually Transmitted Disease packet from the Clearinghouse.


Date Published: 
Mon, March 03, 1997