Why women suffer diagnostic errors more often than men

On Behalf of | Mar 16, 2024 | Personal Injury

Evidence suggests that women are more likely to suffer from diagnostic errors compared to men, a disparity that raises significant concerns regarding gender bias and inequality in medical treatment. 

Historically, medical research has predominantly focused on male physiology, with clinical trials often excluding female participants. This gender bias has led to a knowledge gap, affecting how symptoms and diseases are understood and diagnosed in women. Additionally, conditions that predominantly affect women, such as autoimmune diseases, have traditionally received less academic and practical study than those that affect men more often or affect both sexes in relatively equitable ways. 

Stereotyping, atypical presentations, and dismissal of symptoms

Women’s health concerns are often dismissed or stereotyped in healthcare settings. Symptoms presented by women, especially those related to pain or mental health, are sometimes attributed to emotional or psychological factors rather than physical conditions. This dismissal can delay accurate diagnosis and treatment, potentially leading to worsened health outcomes.

Certain diseases manifest differently in women than in men, but diagnostic criteria are frequently based on male symptomatology. For example, heart attack symptoms in women can include fatigue, shortness of breath and jaw pain, which are less commonly associated with heart attacks than the classic chest pain often experienced by men. This atypical presentation can lead to misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis in women. Ultimately, there is a need for more comprehensive training for healthcare professionals on the gender differences in disease presentation and progression. 

The consequences of diagnostic errors can be profound, potentially affecting a patient’s quality of life, financial stability and long-term health. Women who have suffered due to misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis may be in a position to hold negligent providers accountable. As such, exploring their rights and options under the law is generally a good idea. 

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