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Battered Women's Ills Go Beyond Bruises

Victims of abuse may get headaches, chest pain, infections and other health woes, study finds

MONDAY, Oct. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Women abused by their romantic partners are more likely to suffer from a long list of medical maladies than other women, a new study shows.

The diseases, many of which aren't traditionally connected with violence, include abdominal pain, chest pain, headaches, acid reflux, urinary tract infections and menstrual disorders.

"Roughly half of the diagnoses we examined were more common in abused women than in other women," study author Amy Bonomi, an associate professor of human development and family science at Ohio State University, in a school news release. "Abuse is associated with much more than cuts and bruises."

Abused women were also nearly six times more likely to abuse substances and more than three times more likely to have been diagnosed with depression and sexually transmitted diseases.

The findings were published in the Oct. 12 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The researchers examined the medical records of 3,568 women from the Northwest and surveyed them by phone. Of those, 242 women reported being abused by romantic partners, including husbands and boyfriends.

"These women are not just saying they are depressed or have cuts and bruises," Bonomi said. "They are going to the doctor and having their problems diagnosed."

The researchers suggest that doctors should take more time to determine if female patients are being abused. Factors such as depression, substance abuse, STDs and cuts and bruises should be seen as possible signs of abuse.

"Many women may not volunteer that they are in abusive relationships, so health-care providers should be suspicious if their female patients have any of these diagnoses and symptoms that occur much more often among abuse victims," Bonomi said.

More information

Learn more about domestic violence from the American Academy of Family Physicians.

--Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: Ohio State University, news release, Oct. 12, 2009

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