Investigations of premenstrual asthma (PMA) have been based on studies of asthmatics already aware of a deterioration of asthma premenstrually. Little is known, therefore, about relationships between the menstrual cycle and airway function in asthmatics who do not complain of PMA or in normal subjects. We investigated airway function in both of these groups for three or four consecutive menstrual cycles. Daily records of asthma symptoms and peak expiratory flow rates were maintained by 11 asthmatics and 29 normal control subjects. Standard spirometry and serum estradiol and progesterone levels were measured during the follicular, midluteal, and late luteal phases of the menstrual cycle. Airway reactivity to methacholine was tested during the follicular and luteal phases. The normal group showed no significant changes in symptoms, peak flow rates, spirometric parameters, or airway reactivity. Although the asthmatic group also demonstrated no significant changes in spirometry and airway reactivity, asthma symptoms (shortness-of-breath, cough, wheeze, and chest tightness) deteriorated significantly (p less than 0.001) from the follicular to the luteal phase, as did the morning peak flows of the asthmatics (p = 0.045). Airway function and reactivity were not related to hormone levels in either group. This study indicates that asthmatics not previously aware of PMA will record a premenstrual worsening of asthma symptoms and peak expiratory flow rates. These changes are not related to a deterioration in spirometry and airway reactivity or to the absolute levels of circulating progesterone and estradiol.