Transgender individuals have specific health care needs. They may have behavioral health concerns, and they’re also at higher risk of developing health problems. This is because they have less access to health care due to low employment rates, lack of insurance coverage, or fear of discrimination.1 But you have the power to protect your health. Start by asking your health care provider about these ten important issues.
Access to health care
It’s not easy to find a health care provider who knows how to treat transgender people. Some providers may not agree to treat you. Others might not understand you or feel that there’s something wrong with you. Check the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA) website to find providers who are sensitive to LGBT health needs. Make sure to find out which providers are in your plan’s network. Even if you find a great health care provider, your insurance may not pay for treatment. Ask your health care provider if your costs will be covered. If they won’t, ask if your bills can be reduced, or if payment plans are available.
It’s important for you to be able to trust your health care provider, so that you can be honest about your past. Tell them about any medicines you’ve taken and surgeries you’ve had. Knowing about your health history can help your health care provider give you the best treatment today.
Talk with your health care provider about hormone treatment. If you’re starting hormones for the first time, ask what you need to watch out for while taking them. If you’re a transgender woman, ask about estrogen and blood clots, swelling, high or low blood pressure, and high blood sugar. If you’re a transgender man, ask about blood tests. You’ll need these to be sure your testosterone dosage is safe. Only take the hormones prescribed by your health care provider.
Transgender persons may be at greater risk for heart attack and stroke. This is due to hormone use, along with cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Transgender women may worry that they’ll have to stop taking estrogen if they develop heart trouble. This can stop them from reporting symptoms such as chest pain or breathing trouble. Tell your health care provider about any symptoms right away. The earlier heart problems are caught, the better your chances.
It is possible, though very rare, to develop cancer due to hormone treatment. It’s also possible to develop certain cancers if your sex organs haven’t been removed. Ask your health care provider about screening for these types of cancers.
Sexually transmitted infections and safe sex
If you’re having sex, you may be at risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Safe sex is the best way to protect yourself. Ask your health care provider about safe sex and STI screenings.
Alcohol and tobacco
Drinking too much can damage your liver or other organs. It can lead to accidents and unsafe behavior. Alcohol can also interact badly with hormones. Talk to your health care provider about how much alcohol is safe for you. Many transgender people smoke cigarettes. This raises their risks of heart and lung disease, especially in people taking hormones. If you smoke, ask your health care provider for help with quitting.
Sadness and depression is common among transgender persons, both before and after transition. If you’re depressed, you may struggle to feel happy. You might make bad choices or harm yourself. If you’re feeling sad or depressed, talk to your health care provider. There are lots of treatments that can help.
Some transgender women want to look feminine and beautiful without having to wait for the effects of estrogen. They turn to silicone injections to get “instant curves.” This silicone is often sold at “pumping parties” by people who aren’t medical professionals. Silicone can shift around in your tissues and cause ugly scars years later. It’s usually not medical grade, may be contaminated, and is often injected using a shared needle. Sharing needles can transmit hepatitis or HIV. Avoid the dangers of silicone. Talk to your health care provider if you’re thinking about it.
Diet and exercise
Many transgender people are overweight and don’t exercise. It’s important to eat a healthy diet and get regular exercise. If you’re planning to have surgery, your surgeon will want you to be in good physical condition. This improves your chances of doing well during and after surgery. Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, and aim for at least 20 minutes of exercise three times a week.
The content provided on this web site is not medical advice and is not intended to be a substitute for medical care provided by a physician.
1National LGBTQ Task Force Injustice at Every Turn: A report of the national transgender discrimination survey.