In the United States alone, 1 in 12 people have asthma. This respiratory condition ranges from mild forms to severe, and it is usually linked to allergies and other types of hypersensitivity. But, according to a recent study, if you are a woman, there is an additional issue to worry about: hormones.
A paper published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology indicates that there is a connection between fluctuations in female sex hormones and asthma, particularly around significant life events such as puberty and menopause. The team of scientists from the University of Edinburgh reviewed more than 50 studies of women with asthma, which included over 500,000 participants in various ages, from teenagers to 75 years of age.
They noticed that asthma is much more common for boys than girls in childhood, but after puberty, the numbers change drastically: not only that females lead in numbers, their asthma symptoms are usually much more severe than those of the opposite sex. Naturally, this led them to question the role and impact of sex hormones on the respiratory condition, and, although still inconclusive, the findings seem to support the theory that estrogen and progesterone levels and their fluctuations affect asthma.
Women who got their first period before 11 years of age, as well as those who have irregular periods, had a higher rate of asthma. Similarly, the onset of menopause, when sex hormones are in a whirlwind, was often found to be connected with increased chances of developing this respiratory condition later in life.
The team stressed that it was unclear whether birth control pills or hormone replacement therapies have any link to asthma, and that this study shouldn’t make women question their choice of contraceptive or doctor-prescribed treatment.
Although the review of the available evidence was thorough and offered new insights into the issue, there is still need for additional research and future studies. For example, in studies where hormones were supplemented, the lack of consistency and uniformity made it difficult for the researchers to draw firm conclusions. They do plan, however, to continue their efforts to understand the connection between hormones, asthma, and allergies.
Photo credit: Antonio Guillem/Shutterstock