Gender differences in Asthma?
Most diseases do not discriminate on the basis of gender – that is they occur with nearly equal frequency in both males and females. However, some diseases show partiality towards one sex !! For instance rheumatoid arthritis and thyroid disorders are far more common in females and heart diseases are somewhat more common in men.
Clear sex differences exist in asthma. Boys have more asthma before puberty. There is a reversal of this sex ratio during puberty with girls having more asthma throughout the reproductive years.
A corollary to this observation is that in childhood asthma, the chances of the child outgrowing the asthma are brighter for boys than for girls.
Hormonal changes have been implicated in the reversal of the sex ratio. Testosterone is an immunosuppressant and is likely to be protective, while female sex steroids are pro-inflammatory and will increase the susceptibility to asthma.
An interesting observation that supports the theory that female hormones are asthma promoting is the fact that asthma in a pregnant lady is more likely to worsen when the baby in the womb is a female and more likely to slightly improve when the child in the womb is a male child !
Some other general observations on gender & asthma:
- Adult onset asthma is more severe in women than in men.
- For the same degree of reduction in lung functions women have more severe symptoms than men.
- Women seek medical advice more often than men.
- Psychological issues negatively impacting asthma is more frequently seen in females than in males.