April Flowers for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
A new study, led by Haukeland University Hospital in Bergen, Norway, suggests a woman’s menstrual cycle affects the severity of respiratory symptoms. This can worsen conditions such as asthma, the study finds.
The research team studied nearly 4,000 women and found such symptoms were worse around the time of ovulation. The findings, published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, claim it may be possible to adapt women’s medication to account for this phenomenon.
Asthma UK, a charity dedicated to improving the health and well-being of asthma sufferers, said these findings could help women with asthma manage their condition better.
None of the women studied were taking hormonal contraceptives and all had regular menstrual cycles lasting 28 days or less. Of these, 28.5 percent were smokers and 8 percent have been diagnosed with asthma.
For most, wheezing symptoms worsened between days 10 and 22 of their cycles, with a slight dip near ovulation. Days seven to 21 saw a worsening in shortness of breath, with the same slight dip near ovulation.
It is not just asthma sufferers who experienced these symptoms, the study found. Following ovulation, coughing was worse for those with asthma, those who were overweight and the smokers.
“We found that respiratory symptoms varied significantly during the menstrual cycle. There were large changes in symptom incidence through the cycle for all symptoms. These relationships indicate a link between respiratory symptoms and hormonal changes through the menstrual cycle. ”
Pronounced variations in symptoms were found during the menstrual cycle in women with asthma, suggesting women might need tailored medication regimes.
“Adjustment of asthma medication to the menstrual cycle may potentially improve the efficacy of asthma treatment and reduce disability and health costs related to asthma in women. ”
Dr. Ferenc Macsali said, “Our results point to the potential for individualizing therapy for respiratory diseases according to individual symptom patterns. Adjusting asthma medication, for example, according to a woman’s menstrual cycle might improve its efficacy and help reduce disability and the costs of care.”
Dr. Samantha Walker, of Asthma UK, agrees.
“This research is really interesting, and could help women with asthma to manage their condition better. Asthma can be triggered by many different things, and this varies from person to person – but we always encourage people with asthma to be aware of things that trigger their symptoms so that they can take steps to control them.
“If women with asthma notice that their symptoms are worsening at key times of the month then they can take preventive measures such as having inhalers that are within date, working and contain enough doses of medicine to see them through the times when they are most affected.”
This is not the first study to link asthma symptoms and the menstrual cycle. In 1996, a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine also provided evidence to support this link. This study examined the menstrual phase of 182 patients admitted to the emergency room for asthma treatment in Pennsylvania. They found “hormonal changes that occur as menstruation starts may make some asthmatic women more vulnerable to attacks,” citing 20 percent of those studied were preovulatory and 24 percent were ovulatory when the attacks occurred.
The New York Times pointed out that the possibility of such a link had first been reported in a 1931 medical journal, though the connection was never proven.
Nearly 25 million Americans suffer from asthma, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, and more than 3,300 die from asthma every year.