KOCHI: Though medical fraternity has termed ‘ asthma’ as controllable, it is still turning out to be a major villain for the fairer sex.
The deaths occurring among women due to asthmatic attacks are showing a sharp increase when compared to men in the state. When the incidence of death due to asthma is 1.1 per one lakh in men, it is as high as 1.6 in women. Besides, the doctors testify that women are being hospitalised at a higher rate of about 19 per one lakh as against 14 in men in the state. This happens at a time when the inhaler therapy could do much to prevent deaths, say the experts.
When the Statistics Department of the state government did an analysis of deaths registered in 2008, heart attack, cancer and asthma turned out to be the biggest killers. In the analysis, majority of the women died of asthma.
After all these years, things have not changed for the better, said Dr Praveen Valsalan, consultant pulmonologist and secretary, Cochin Thoracic Society.
Though the girls get afflicted with Asthma during childhood, 70 to 80 per cent get cured when they attain puberty. “ But much to the dismay, the death among the rest of the female population with asthma is still showing an upward trend. This is a scary situation,” said Dr Rajesh V, HOD, Pulmonology Department, AIMS, Kochi. Besides, asthma tends to worsen during pregnancy. Extreme care is the only solution to prevent any untoward incident.
“When the abdomen bulges, the contents inside it mount more pressure on the lungs. As a result, the capacity of the lungs reduces and asthma intensifies,” he said. Women are more vulnerable to asthma owing to the effect of female hormones. Besides, they tend to pass off this ailment as mere cold or bronchitis and avoid treatments for a longer time. This makes the disease intense which is otherwise controllable, said Dr Praveen.
“ The severity of asthma symptoms is noticed during the pre-pubertal and pre- menstrual period among many women. The hormone levels during a woman’s menstrual cycle change dramatically and the worst symptoms are noticed four to five days just before a menstrual period as the estrogen levels are low. It is thus recommended to consult a doctor and develop an asthma management plan to reduce the discomfort. Worsening asthma symptoms are observed during menopause too when the female hormones are known to stabilise,” he said.
Aversion against inhaler and fear of social stigma seems to be a major hurdle while battling the disease. “ Many avoid inhalers and many women keep asthma under wraps just to avoid familial social stigma during marriage thus risking the treatment opportunities in future,” he said.