Wheezing can be due to reflux (GERD)

Child and a womanPeople of all ages can have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and it can be the cause of wheezing, rather than asthma.  A new study from Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington confirms the growing body of literature surrounding reflux as a cause for wheezing. 

Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) occurs when the sphinctor between the esophagus and stomach either relaxes inappropriately or is weak. This allows stomach juices to back up, or reflux, into the esophagus, creating heartburn. When the stomach fluid backs up into the esophagus and overflows into the breathing tubes, this can result in airway blockage which can lead to wheezing that can be misdiagnosed as asthma.  Wheezing from GERD often occurs at night when a person is lying down.  

When asthma-medication doesn’t resolve the wheezing, the question of potential underlying GERD should always be raised.  

The symptoms of GERD include one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Heartburn, chest pain Frequent or constant heartburn is the most common symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).  When refluxed stomach acid touches the lining of the esophagus it may cause a burning sensation in the chest or throat called heartburn or acid indigestion. Heartburn is a common condition experienced by millions of Americans. Anyone experiencing heartburn twice a week or more may have GERD. An occasional episode can be insignificant, but regular episodes of heartburn can be a sign of a serious problem and deserves medical attention.  The burning and pressure symptoms of heartburn can last for several hours and often worsen after eating food. Many people describe their symptoms as burning discomfort which is localized behind the breastbone.  You can actually have GERD without having heartburn.
  • Bitter or sour taste of acid in the back of the throat especially when bending over or lying down. This can occur due to acid reflux which can be tasted in the back of the mouth.
  • Throat symptoms: persistent sore throat, burning of the throat, chronic hoarseness, excessive clearing of the throat, problems swallowing, or a feeling of a lump in the throat
  • Lung or airway symptoms: chronic cough or asthma (Lung problems can develop when reflux causes stomach fluid to overflow into the breathing tubes. This often occurs at night when a person is lying down and may cause wheezing, bronchitis and pneumonia.)

Persistent reflux that occurs more than twice a week is considered GERD.  The condition is treatable and most people find relief if they follow a consistent plan, but it is important to see your doctor or health care provider for diagnosis, treatment, and to rule out a more serious underlying condition.  Ignoring persistent heartburn symptoms can lead to severe consequences, even cancer. 

via Bay Area Medical Information, Reflux–GERD
via MedPage Today, October 7, 2008
via Medline Plus, GERD,

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1 Response to “Wheezing can be due to reflux (GERD)”

  1. If neglected GERD can have not only unpleasant, perhaps painful symptoms, but can also generate grave complications. At worst, it may even lead to the development of esophageal cancer. By practicing some behavioral modifications we can overcome recurrent acid reflux. Lifestyle changes are all that is necessary in preventing heartburn from becoming a chronic disease.
    Recently approved by the FDA, a new technology called plicator procedure is being used to achieve better results without major surgery. To know more about the process visit the link below click here, read more about New GERD Procedure

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