Can Menopause Cause Asthma?
You probably associate menopause with a wide range of physical changes. But have you ever thought that this change of life can also trigger asthma symptoms?
When Menopause and Asthma Co-Exist
If you've never experienced any respiratory issues before menopause and you suddenly find yourself wheezing and short of breath, the timing might not be a coincidence. Researchers believe there's a connection between menopause and asthma although they aren't quite sure how or why these conditions co-exist.
A number of studies in recent years have looked at the connection between menopause and adult onset of asthma but their findings have been inconsistent. Some researchers believe that the problem can be traced back to hormonal fluctuations and metabolic shifts that occur when the menopause transitional period sets in, while others think that a woman's weight and whether she uses hormone replacement therapy can affect her asthma risk.
For instance, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Allergy, Asthma and Immunology in September 2008 looked at women with menopause and found that those who were leaner had poorer lung health and more asthma symptoms. The reason could be because women with a lower body mass index could have lower estrogen levels and increased insulin resistance, which can lead to inflammation of the airways and resulting asthma symptoms.
But heavy women are also at risk for this problem, perhaps because being overweight and having asthma can occur through the same pathways.
The Role of Hormone Replacement Therapy
The ongoing Nurses' Health Study conducted through Harvard University suggests that it may not be the menopause itself that triggers the asthma, but it could instead be the hormone replacement therapy (HRT) used to treat the condition that can increase the risk for respiratory problems in certain women. However, other efforts have found some improvements in women with asthma using hormone replacement therapy, so the risks may vary in different situations.
What You Can Do
If you're going through menopause and are worried about the possibility of asthma symptoms, all of these findings may be quite confusing. The best way to protect yourself is to be on the lookout for changes in your breathing capacity or an increase in wheezing, coughing, or chest pressure. These can be signs of asthma that may need to be addressed with the help of your doctor.
If you do have asthma, your doctor can develop an asthma action plan to help you control your symptoms and treat them as needed. He can also help you weigh the benefits and risks of using hormone replacement therapy for your specific situation.
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
Thorax: An International Journal of Respiratory Medicine
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