Background: Studies suggesting that 30% to 40% of asthmatic women report significant perimenstrual (late luteal phase) exacerbations of asthma are primarily retrospective, rely on subjective findings and do not demonstrate a consistent association between asthma and the menstrual cycle.
Objective: In this exploratory analysis, women with and without self-reported perimenstrual exacerbations of asthma (PMA) were examined prospectively to determine the association between asthma and the menstrual cycle and to characterize associated clinical factors.
Methods: Thirty-two adult asthmatic women with regular menstrual periods recorded daily asthma symptoms, medication use, and peak expiratory flow rate (PEFR) over six consecutive menstrual cycles, and underwent spirometry and methacholine bronchoprovocation during the luteal and follicular phases of 2 cycles.
Results: Nine of 32 subjects (28.2%) reported PMA. Daily means of rescue medication use and AM peak flow computed for each perimenstrual day demonstrated significant non-parallelism of group profiles; subjects with PMA had increasing inhaled short acting beta 2-agonist use and decreasing AM peak flow rates during the perimenstrual interval. Luteal-follicular phase differences in FEV1 or methacholine bronchoprovocation between the groups were not detected. Subjects with PMA were older (P=.007), had longer duration of asthma (P=.039), and increased baseline asthma severity (P=.076) compared with subjects without PMA.
Conclusion: The findings of this study suggest that women with self-reported perimenstrual asthma demonstrate perimenstrual differences in rescue bronchodilator use and AM peak flow and appear to constitute a distinct subset of women with asthma who are older, have longer duration of asthma, and increased severity of asthma compared with women without self-reported perimenstrual asthma. These factors identify women who require close monitoring of their asthma during their menstrual cycles.