Journal review

Cydulka RK, Emerman CL, Rowe BH, et al. Differences between men and women in reporting of symptoms during an asthma exacerbation. Ann Emerg Med 2001; 38:123-128.

Men are less likely than women to report severe asthma symptoms, according to this study from MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland. The study combined data from four studies performed from 1996 to 1998 using a standardized protocol. Women were more likely than men to report "severe" complaints pertaining to frequency of symptoms, intensity of symptoms, and activity limitations.

Although men who came to the ED for treatment of acute asthma had similar airway obstruction, they reported less frequent and less severe asthma symptoms.

"It is unclear if men are less able to perceive low levels of obstruction or if they are less disturbed by them," the researchers note. They also theorize that the tendency for men to develop asthma at an earlier age may result in less awareness of obstruction, or that men may be more reluctant to seek care until the problem is so acute they can’t ignore it any longer.

These findings support the use of objective measures of airway obstruction when treating asthmatic patients so that patients can be properly treated. "Educational programs geared toward men, particularly those who may be poor perceivers of obstruction, and geared toward health care providers could help further this simple goal," they wrote.