Menstrual cycle 'affects asthma'13th November 2012
The hormones produced as part of a woman's normal menstrual cycle can influence respiratory symptoms, including asthma, according to recent research carried out in Norway.
A research team at Norway's Haukeland University Hospital in Bergen studied nearly 4,000 women, discovering that many of them reported their worst asthmatic symptoms around ovulation.
Published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, the report said the findings could give doctors guidance to adjust medications for some women, while asthma experts said it could help women to better manage their condition.
None of the women studied were taking hormonal contraceptives, and all had regular menstrual cycles of 28 days or less.
While 28.5% smoked, a further 8% were asthmatic.
The latter group reported wheezing symptoms that got worse between days 10 to 22 of their cycle. Most saw a slight alleviation of their wheezing at the point of ovulation.
Days 7-21 were most likely to see shortness of breath, which also fell slightly around the point of ovulation, the researchers found.
But coughing as a symptom was reported in smokers and the overweight, as well as among asthmatics, and among these women it was generally worse after ovulation had occurred.
The menstrual cycle is determined by complex hormonal processes which vary over the course of the cycle, and between individuals. Hormones fluctuate throughout the cycle, and body temperature rises around ovulation.
Samantha Walker of Asthma UK said the research was very interesting, and could help women with asthma manage their condition better.
It is possible that this rise in temperature affects the respiratory passages, and, indirectly, to the body's inflammatory responses to infectious pathogens.
Led by Ferenc Macsali, the research team concluded that respiratory symptoms varied significantly during the menstrual cycle, with large changes in symptom incidence through the cycle for all symptoms.
Women with asthma reported "pronounced" symptom variations during the menstrual cycle, suggesting that they could benefit from tailored medication regimes.
Such adjustments could improve the effectiveness of current treatments and reduce disability and health costs linked to the condition, according to Macsali.
Walker said that asthma can be triggered by many different things, with great variation from person to person, and that asthma patients were usually encouraged to be more aware of what triggers their symptoms.
Women could ensure they have up-to-date inhalers with sufficient supply of doses to see them through the times when symptoms are at their worst, she added.
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