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Asthma is classified as an inflammatory disorder. For some women, during their menstrual period, or around the time of menstruation, the chance of having an asthma attack is increased or asthma symptoms are more severe. It is estimated that approximately about half of all women with asthma experience a worsening of their asthma symptoms either during their menstrual period or right before it. It is believed that fluctuating hormones are the culprit.
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Asthma and Female Hormones
In children, asthma tends to affect boys more, but once puberty begins, girls are more often affected. Because of this trend, it is believed that hormones play a role. The average menstrual cycle is 28 days. This means that there are about 28 days between the first day of each menstrual period. The week prior to a woman's menstrual period, estrogen and progesterone decline and on the 28th day, both of these hormones are at their lowest point. These two hormones declining may result in the airways constricting or affect immune system cells, which could result in an asthma attack. When a woman's hormones fluctuate, the lung's blood vessels disappear and form and this can decrease or increase how well the lungs are able to take in oxygen, resulting in a worsening of asthma.
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Menstrual Period and Asthma
A woman may notice a worsening of asthma symptoms four days prior to her period to through the final day of her period. This is actually a rather common pattern among asthmatic women, so common in fact, that a term has been coined: premenstrual asthma (PMA). This condition is said to occur when a few days prior to menstruation, lung function and asthma symptoms worsen. Women with severe asthma are at the highest risk.
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Preventing an Asthma Attack Associated with a Menstrual Period
Women can control menstrual period-related asthma. Many health care professional recommend keeping a detailed journal of symptoms. This can help to determine if there is a connection between a woman's menstrual period and her worsened asthma. If asthma is worsened around her period, increasing preventative medicine during this time may help to lessen the chance of an asthma attack and to help keep symptoms under control.
Women should do what they can to avoid triggers. Common asthma triggers include exercise, dust, smoke, cold air, pollutants and in some cases, aspirin.
Hormone therapy may help some women get relief from their asthma. Premenopausal women may benefit from wearing a patch, birth control pills or getting injections. Recent studies show that women using oral contraceptives often experience an improvement in asthma symptoms.
Women also need to be prepared. This involves having their rescue inhaler available at all times and seeking emergency medical attention when necessary.
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Asthma UK Organization. (2010). Asthma and Women. Retrieved on April 4, 2011 from the Asthma UK Organization: http://www.asthma.org.uk/all_about_asthma/asthma_adults/asthma_women.html
FamilyDoctor.org. (2010). Asthma Flareups. Retrieved on April 4, 2011 from FamilyDoctor.org: http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/common/asthma/basics/681.html
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