Asthma symptoms include shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing attacks. In adults, asthma attacks can be triggered by exercise, cold air or an allergic reaction to one or more environmental triggers. Asthma is typically managed with a combination of lifestyle adjustments, preventative asthma medication and a rescue inhaler to treat emergency asthma symptoms. We thought we knew the causes and influences of asthma — but new research suggests menstruation may affect asthma symptoms in female patients, and medication may need to be adjusted throughout a woman’s menstrual cycle to achieve effective symptom management.
New Asthma Research
Norwegian researchers studied nearly 4,000 women throughout their menstrual cycle, monitoring and recording respiratory symptoms. They discovered that symptoms varied based on BMI, smoking status and asthma diagnosis, but, remarkably, asthma patients reliably experienced worsening symptoms at certain points in their cycle and fewer to no symptoms at other points. Wheezing symptoms, for example, dramatically increased before ovulation, decreased during ovulation and returned immediately after ovulation. This suggests doctors may need to consider prescribing different types of medication at different stages of the menstrual cycle, so female patients can manage their systems the best possible way.
Asthma Symptoms and the Menstrual Cycle
If you’ve been diagnosed with asthma, you may find your symptoms change dramatically throughout your cycle. The researchers noted trends throughout the menstrual cycle, but also noted that these trends varied widely from one woman to another, based primarily on hormone levels and cycle length. The correlation between asthma symptoms and menstruation, therefore, appears to be unique to individual women. One patient may experience more severe symptoms on cycle day 10, for example, while another experiences them on cycle day 12. Because of these dramatic variations, it’s important female asthma sufferers spend time monitoring their individual symptoms and menstrual cycle to effectively manage their symptoms.
Monitoring Your Cycle
Women interested in tracking their menstrual cycle can do so in several ways. If you’re taking birth control pills, for example, you can simply note the date of the first day of your period on your package insert, then track the rest of your cycle using the numbered pill slots. If you aren’t using the pill, you can track your menstruation dates on a paper calendar, noting the first and last day of your period. Most females are on a cycle of 28 to 31 days, with the start of menstruation being day one. Once you’ve recorded one or two complete cycles, you should have an idea of when your period begins and ends, when you ovulate and when you experience PMS symptoms. If you’d prefer not to keep track on paper, there are also numerous smartphone applications available that allow you to privately track your menstrual cycle.
Asthma Symptom Awareness
As you track your menstrual cycle, it’s important to stay aware of your asthma symptoms. These symptoms may change throughout your cycle, and noting any severe episodes, asthma attacks or symptom-free days on the same calendar you use to track your menstrual cycle can help you manage your symptoms more effectively. Tracking asthma symptoms and menstrual symptoms for just one to two months will provide your physician with quite a bit of useful information that they can then use to more effectively treat your asthma.
Managing Asthma Symptoms Throughout Your Menstrual Cycle
After you’ve gathered information about both your menstrual cycle and your asthma symptoms, you should make an appointment to discuss the information with your doctor, especially if you’ve noticed a trend in your symptoms. Your doctor may be able to provide you with a preventative medication to take before your symptoms worsen each month, an additional rescue inhaler to take when symptoms are most severe or an allergy medication to help ward off allergic asthma symptoms. These prescriptions can be combined at various points throughout your cycle to help you achieve the best possible asthma management. Unfortunately, managing asthma symptoms effectively throughout the menstrual cycle can be an expensive proposition, especially if you do not have health insurance or prescription coverage. Steroid inhalers, rescue inhalers and asthma preventatives can add up to hundreds of dollars each month. Patients who are concerned about the high cost of medication for their asthma but who still need to manage their symptoms effectively may find that they are able to get more value for their money by purchasing medication from a reliable online pharmacy. These services offer high quality generic medications that are available by mail order for patients with a valid prescription. Due to the currency differences between Canada and the United States, patients can typically purchase medications from Canada at a dramatic discount. This is often an excellent option for patients who need to control their medical costs, but also need the best quality medication and health care available.