Objectives: To summarize the potential variables that contribute to the increased risk of asthma in women, outline therapeutic strategies that address these variables, and review current treatment recommendations for both pregnant and nonpregnant women with asthma.
Data sources: Literature searches (MEDLINE and cross-references) were performed using the keywords asthma and women in combination with the terms compliance, depression, emergency department, hormones, menstruation, mortality, National Asthma Education and Prevention Program, osteoporosis, pregnancy, prevalence, smoking, and treatment. Searches were limited to human studies with data published before 2005.
Study selection: The author selected relevant articles for inclusion in this review.
Results: Fluctuations in sex hormones, menstruation, pregnancy, obesity, depression, medication nonadherence, and smoking may contribute to increased asthma symptoms or severity in women. Asthma control may be improved if physicians address conditions and behaviors associated with asthma variability and severity in women. Notably, asthma must be managed aggressively in pregnant women, because uncontrolled asthma can lead to perinatal complications. Asthma treatment in women is optimized through patient and physician adherence to national guideline recommendations, including provision of patient education and asthma action plans.
Conclusions: Multiple variables throughout the female life cycle may influence asthma control. Successful asthma management requires an ongoing partnership between the patient and her physician to address physiologic (eg, sex hormones, pregnancy, obesity, depression) and nonphysiologic (eg, smoking, medication nonadherence) factors that may contribute to decreased asthma control.