Asthma: Women at higher risk of attacks and death than men - Institute for Respiratory Health

Asthma: Women at higher risk of attacks and death than men

Monday, September 04, 2023 | News

As we celebrate Women’s Health Week, 4- 8 September 2023, researchers at the Institute for Respiratory Health say that millions of women with asthma are drawing the short straw with too little research exploring the reasons for this disparity.

Professor Yuben Moodley from the Institute for Respiratory Health said, “Asthma becomes more common in females than males after puberty. Women experience more symptoms, more unscheduled healthcare visits and admissions for asthma than men, and are more likely to die from the disease.”

In childhood, asthma is indeed more prevalent and severe in boys. However, after puberty, the situation changes and asthma becomes more prevalent and severe among women. 14.2 per cent of women in comparison to 5.4 per cent of men have asthma in the 45-54 age group in Australia (Australian Bureau of Statistics).

Pollen, air pollution and dust are well-known asthma triggers but what people might not be aware of is that fluctuations in female sex hormones can also predispose to the onset of asthma, cause asthma symptoms to flare-up, or even trigger life-threatening asthma attacks.

“During Women’s Health Week, the Institute wants to spotlight the link between times of hormonal change (during puberty, periods, pregnancy and peri-menopause) and asthma,” Professor Moodley said. “For example, a perimenstrual worsening of asthma is relatively common but is something that is often not asked about or volunteered.”

To protect themselves Professor Moodley suggests that women take their preventer medicine every day as prescribed, because oestrogens worsen the type of asthma inflammation that inhaled steroids treat.

“However, the ‘one-size-fits-all approach’ to asthma treatment isn’t helping women with more severe disease. We’d encourage women who don’t have good asthma control to seek referrals for review in a multidisciplinary severe asthma clinic,” said Professor Moodley.

“The gap in our knowledge due to a relative lack of research for this common condition is failing women, leaving them struggling with potentially debilitating asthma symptoms.”

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