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Perimenstrual and Catamenial Asthma

In my opinion, hormones are some of the most complex things found in the human body. Hormones can affect growth, moods, metabolism, stress levels, sexuality, fertility, and more!1Several hormones are involved in the process of menstruation, and hormone changes before and during menstruation can actually have an effect on asthma symptoms.

What are perimenstrual and catamenial asthma?

Perimenstrual means around the time of menstruation, and catamenial means relating to or being a symptom of the menstrual cycle. Therefore, perimenstrual asthma and catamenial asthma can be used interchangeably. Perimenstrual/catamenial asthma refers to the increase or worsening of asthma symptoms before or during menstruation.

Asthma symptoms can include wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing, chest pain and tightness, etc. Women who experience perimenstrual asthma also have an increase in asthma-related ED visits, hospitalizations, and ICU admissions.2

Female sex hormones, like estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, have the potential to aggravate asthma and other allergic diseases. 3 According to the Mayo Clinic:4

“In some women, these hormone changes may worsen asthma. The relationship between hormones and asthma is complex, varies from person to person, and isn't fully understood”.

See, hormones are complicated! The reason you may not have heard of perimenstrual/catamenial asthma, or haven’t had a label to describe what you experience, is because there is not much research on perimenstrual/catamenial asthma.

Why does perimenstrual asthma occur?

In small studies, perimenstrual asthma has been documented in 30-40% of women who have asthma.5 Typically, women who experience this have severe or difficult to control asthma. Unfortunately, the reason why this occurs is still not clear.

One possible theory is that the increase or change of sex hormones may contribute to more inflammation in the body, and therefore causes a worsening of asthma symptoms.2 There needs to be more studies and research done on this topic to better understand why it occurs, and what can be done to alleviate perimenstrual/catamenial asthma.

What can you do?

If you experience perimenstrual/catamenial asthma, the first thing you should do is bring it up with your doctor. They may have suggestions for managing your worsening of asthma symptoms. If the symptoms you experience are severe, they also may be able to refer you to a specialist.

As always, keep up with your maintenance medications to stay on top of managing your asthma. Since there needs to be more research done on perimenstrual/catamenial asthma, keeps your eyes open for future studies; you may be able to join one!

Conclusion

Although there has not been much research on perimenstrual/catamenial asthma, it is surprisingly more common than you would expect. If you have felt abnormal for experiencing a worsening of asthma symptoms around your period, know that you are not alone! As research catches up with this existing phenomenon, the best you can do right now is to speak with your doctor and continue to manage your asthma. Hopefully, sooner than later, we will have more information and a way to manage this condition.

Do you experience a worsening of asthma symptoms before or during menstruation? If so, how do you manage it?

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