Managing the Combination of Asthma and GERD
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) isn’t exactly an uncommon illness — about 30% of Americans have weekly bouts of heartburn, the principle symptom — but those with asthma are at a considerably higher risk. Doctors report that around 75% of asthmatics also suffer from GERD, which makes them more than twice as vulnerable as the rest of the population.
If you are one of the unlucky people who live with both conditions, rest assured that you can get relief. It’s important that you tweak your management plan to treat both the GERD and asthma: first learn what they may have in common and how they differ, then take steps to ease the irritation with gentle lifestyle changes and targeted medicine.
The Reciprocal Relationship between GERD and Asthma
There’s no clear consensus as to why the two diseases so often come together, but experts suspect that each disease can create the conditions for the other to flare up.
Acid Can Interfere With Airways
As acid backs up into the esophagus, it can damage the lining of the throat and airways, and eventually, strain the lungs. Initially, the effects may be mild – some shortness of breath and throat irritation – but in time, a chronic cough could develop.
Chronic reflux may also trigger a nerve response that causes the esophagus and airways to narrow in an attempt to keep acid from entering the throat. When this happens, you may struggle to inhale deeply, or feel breathless and wheezy.
Asthma Treatment Can Trigger Reflux
Certain common asthma medications, namely theophylline and bronchodilators, are known to cause acid reflux. These can interfere with the pressure of the esophageal sphincter (LES), the mechanism that keeps the stomach acid from moving back up into the esophagus.
Asthma and GERD are very different disorders, although sometimes they are mistaken for each other. If your asthma isn’t responding well to conventional medicine, or you begin to develop symptoms in adulthood, your doctor should check to see if chronic acid reflux is at play.