Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), also known as acid reflux or simply reflux, is a disorder of the digestive system where acidic stomach juices, fluids or food back up from the stomach into the esophagus. GERD can affect patients of all ages.
Patients with asthma are particularly prone to develop GERD. An asthma attack can cause the lower esophageal sphincter to relax and allow stomach contact to return into the esophagus. Some asthma medications may intensify reflux symptoms.
Acid reflux can also worsen an asthma attack by irritating the airways and lungs, leading to progressively more serious asthma. This irritation can trigger an allergic reason, causing the airways to be more sensitive to environmental conditions like smoke or cold air.
Nearly everyone has experienced reflux, identified by an acid taste in your mouth or by heartburn. If these symptoms interfere with your daily routine, it’s time to see one of our doctors at Allergy & Asthma Consultants.
Symptoms that can indicate you have reflux include:
- Chest pain (seek immediate medical help)
- Acid regurgitation (retasting your food after eating)
- Bad breath
- Chronic sore throat
- Gums inflammation
- Sudden excess of saliva
- Laryngitis or hoarseness
- Difficulty or pain when swallowing
Physicians use several tests to diagnose GERD:
- Endoscopy (an examination of the inside of the esophagus
- Esophageal impedance test that measures the movement of substances in the esophagus
- Ambulatory acid (pH) test, that measures the amount of acid present in the esophagus
- X-ray of the upper digestive system
Treatment & Management
If you suffer from both asthma and reflux, managing your GERD will help keep your asthma symptoms under control.
Studies have shown that people with both conditions see a decrease in asthma symptoms and decreased use of asthma medication after proper treatment of their reflux.
Recommended lifestyle changes to treat GERD include:
- Decrease or eliminate alcohol intake
- Stop smoking
- Decrease or eliminate caffeine intake
- Lose weight
- Elevate the head of the patient’s bed 6-8 inches
- Limit meal size and avoid heavy evening meals
- Avoid lying down within two to three hours of eating
- Avoid theophylline (if possible)
In addition to lifestyle changes, your physician may also recommend medications to treat reflux or relieve symptoms. H2 blocks or over the counter antacids may help eliminate or decrease the effects of stomach acid, or a proton pump inhibitor may be prescribed to reduce or block acid production.
In some severe cases, surgery may also be recommended.