Severe acid reflux can make your stomach and throat feel uncomfortable or even hurt. Asthma can make it very difficult to breathe. Did you know they can affect each other and make each other worse? And did you know treating it can help with asthma, too?
What is acid reflux?
Acid reflux is when stomach acid reverses direction out of the stomach and into the esophagus and possibly the throat and upper airway. GERD – or gastroesophageal reflux disease – is a severe version that affects the esophagus and often manifests with severe heartburn and sometimes chest pain. LPR, or laryngopharyngeal reflux, occurs when the reflux makes it up to the throat and/or into the larynx or voice box regions, CEENTA ENT doctor Chad Kessler, MD, said. Silent reflux occurs when no significant heartburn-like symptoms are noted. Sometimes LPR and silent reflux occur simultaneously. Symptoms that may be noted are:
- Increased throat clearing
- Increased throat mucous or secretions
- The feeling of a lump in the throat
- The increased sensation of postnasal drip or drainage
- Throat discomfort
- Hoarseness or voice changes
- A chronic cough
What is asthma?
Asthma is a chronic lung and airway disease that inflames and narrows the airways in the lungs. Symptoms include coughing, a shortness of breath, and chest tightness.
How do they affect each other?
It’s not yet clear why reflux and asthma occur together or if one causes the other. However, it is known that they can affect each other, making each condition worse in something of a vicious circle.
In some cases, acid may be stimulating the nerves in your esophagus. This may trigger the nerves to tell your esophagus and larynx to protect itself from the acid. Mucous production may increase and a cough reflex may also be triggered. In other cases, acid directly injures the lining of your throat, airway, and lungs, which makes breathing difficult and causes a cough, or causes an inflammatory reaction in the lower airway, creating an asthma attack, Dr. Kessler said.
On the other hand, it is possible for asthma medicines to make your symptoms worse. This is most likely to occur with the asthma drug theophylline. Inhaled steroids used for asthma may increase symptoms that are similar to LPR.
Treat reflux and help your asthma, too
If you find you are suffering from both reflux and asthma, the best way to ease symptoms of both is to concentrate on treating the reflux. Antacids, H2 blockers, and proton-pump inhibitors can all help. However, sometimes a prescription medicine or even surgery is necessary.
There are a number of non-medical treatments, too. You can:
- Sleep with the head of your bed raised 6 to 8 inches
- Not eat for 3-4 hours before you go to bed
- Eat small meals throughout the day instead of three large meals
- Avoid mints, chocolate, fatty foods, spicy foods, caffeine, and alcohol
- Lose weight
- Quit smoking
- Wear loose-fitting clothing
"If you experience
symptoms like GERD, LPR or silent reflux on a consistent basis, and over-the-counter treatments are not helping your symptoms, it is recommended that you
make an appointment for a professional evaluation," Dr. Kessler said.
It’s also important you take any asthma medicine your doctor has prescribed. While asthma medicines can sometimes aggravate reflux symptoms, never stop taking your asthma medicine without consulting your doctor first.
CEENTA’s ENT doctors can treat reflux. See one today and untangle the ties between it and asthma.
This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your physician. Dr. Kessler sees patients in our Rock Hill office. To make an appointment with him or any of our ENT physicians, call 704-295-3000. You can also schedule an appointment online or through myCEENTAchart.