Acid reflux occurs when acid leaks up from the stomach back up into the esophagus. When this happens, the acid can irritate the airways, causing them to swell. This can result in breathing difficulties.
The link between GERD and asthma
Researchers have also identified a link between GERD and asthma. A 2019 study suggested a bidirectional relationship between GERD and asthma. This means that people with GERD may be more likely to have asthma, and people with asthma may be more likely to experience GERD.
In fact, a 2015 study estimates that up to 89% of people with asthma also experience GERD symptoms. The reason for this may be due to how acid interacts with the airways. Acid in the esophagus sends a warning signal to the brain, which triggers the airways to contract. This, in turn, triggers asthma symptoms.
In cases of GERD-related asthma, treating the symptoms of GERD may help alleviate the symptoms of asthma.
As a 2016 review notes, asthma may also trigger GERD. During an asthma attack, the airways tighten, causing pressure in the esophagus. This increased pressure could encourage acid to leak into the esophagus.
Sometimes, it may be difficult to tell whether a person’s symptoms are the result of asthma or GERD. For instance, a 2015 case study notes that typical GERD symptoms, such as burping and shortness of breath, may sometimes be signs of asthma. The authors of this study emphasize the importance of a thorough diagnosis in each case.
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