Review on March 16, 2009
Women experiencing menopause have nearly double the risk of suffering respiratory allergies such as asthma, according to a new study. This allergy risk, thought to be due to diminished levels of estrogen, is most pronounced in slim women.
The study, entitled, 'Lung function, respiratory symptoms, and the menopausal transition' was conducted for the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI), the peer-reviewed journal of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI).
A survey was taken of more than 1,200 women, aged 45-56 years, who were not taking sex hormones. Of these women about a third had reached menopause.
The candidates supplied information regarding their allergies, lung health and menstrual history, along with detailed statistics about their height to weight and body mass index (BMI).
The researchers also measured the candidates' lung function, hormone levels and analyzed the women's breathing abilities.
Francisco Gomez Real, MD, and colleagues, who completed the detailed research, discovered that the women who had not had a period in the last six months had worse lung function and significantly greater allergy problems. Slim women, with a BMI of less than 23kg/m squared, were most at risk from allergies.
According to the researchers, most women will have reduced estrogen levels during menopause, but those that are underweight seem to have the lowest levels. It is thought that during menopause the fat cells become the primary source of estrogen and so women who have more fat cells will have higher estrogen levels, a hormone which seems to protect against allergies.
Commenting on these findings Dr Victoria King, manager of research and development at Asthma UK, said: 'Research is beginning to show a link between menopause and allergies however it is too early to say exactly how menopause affects asthma symptoms and who is likely to be affected.'
'What is interesting about this study is that it supports previous findings which show that the effect the menopause may have on lung function and allergies is greater in lean women that have a lower body mass index.'
'We do know that some women find that their asthma and allergies gets worse when they are in a period of hormonal change so it is important to keep an eye on your asthma and allergies at these times and discuss any problems you have with your doctor.'
What is apparent is that medical professionals should be aware of these increased risks of allergies in women approaching menopause.