Asthma is a chronic condition that can be serious, even life threatening. There is no cure for this lung disease that makes breathing difficult for millions of Americans – young and old, but the good news is it can be managed and treated so you can live a normal, healthy life.
While the exact cause of asthma is unknown, asthma and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) frequently occur together.
According to a recent New York Times article, one theory about this connection is that small amounts of stomach acid backing up into the esophagus can lead to changes in the immune system that trigger asthma. Another conclusion is that acid leaking from the lower esophagus stimulates the nerves running through the gastrointestinal tract. These stimulated nerves cause the nearby airways in the lung to constrict, producing asthma symptoms. Yet another line of reasoning concludes that acid backup that reaches the mouth may be inhaled (aspirated) into the airways. When this occurs, the acid triggers a reaction in the airways that causes asthma symptoms.
Moreover, some evidence indicates that asthma triggers GERD; but in patients who have both conditions, treating GERD does not appear to improve asthma.
Studies further indicate a possible link between GERD and various upper respiratory problems that occur in the sinuses, nasal passages, ears and lungs. GERD sufferers appear to have an increased risk for chronic bronchitis, chronic sinusitis, emphysema, pulmonary fibrosis (lung scarring) and recurrent pneumonia. Research currently is underway to determine if treating GERD may also reduce the risk for these respiratory conditions.
In addition to the GERD connection, other factors known to play a key role in the development of asthma:
- Genetics – it tends to runs in families. If your mom or dad has asthma, you’re more likely to have it, too.
- Allergies – you’re also more likely to develop allergies if your mom or dad has/had them. Certain allergies are linked to people who get asthma.
- Respiratory Infections – as the lungs develop in infancy and early childhood, certain respiratory infections have been shown to cause inflammation and damage the lung tissue. This damage can have a long-term, even lifelong, impact on lung function.
- Environment – contact with allergens, certain irritants or exposure to viral infections as an infant or in early childhood when the immune system is developing have been linked to developing asthma. Irritants and air pollution may also play a significant role in adult-onset asthma.
Asthma symptoms differ for each individual, but the most common signs are wheezing, frequent cough, shortness of breath and chest tightness.
After an asthma diagnosis, your physician will prescribe medicines to help control your symptoms. The Heartburn and Acid Reflux Center’s board-certified physicians are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of GI problems and their associated respiratory conditions. We’ll work closely with you to devise the optimum treatment plan for your unique circumstances. For more information, call us today at (855) 648-4799.