COPD and GERD
If you suffer from gastro-esophageal reflux (GERD) or acid reflux disease, food or stomach acid can come back to haunt you. It is estimated that 60 million individuals living in the United States suffer from this common ailment, commonly described as heartburn. But what is interesting to note is the fact that many people who are plagued with GERD also have a problem breathing, specifically chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). So then the following questions arise: What is the connection between COPD and GERD? Can one cause the other disease to develop?
COPD and GERD Explained
When someone shares the fact that they have been diagnosed with COPD, it might actually mean either chronic bronchitis or emphysema, as COPD is the umbrella term used to include these two lung diseases. Unfortunately COPD is a progressive disease without a cure. According to the American Lung Association, it is astounding to learn that 12 million Americans have COPD and another 12 million have the lung disease but have not been diagnosed or treated.
With COPD, the individual experiences inflammation of the lungs, which in turn prevents air from being properly exchanged. What causes COPD? Two factors: smoking and environmental or occupational pollutants.
With GERD, stomach acids leak into the esophagus, which can result in damage to the lining. The disease tends to develop in middle age, especially so in obese individuals, with the valve located toward the bottom of the esophagus weakening. If the acid refluxes only into the esophagus, the sufferer will have heartburn. However, when the acid backs up as far as the throat, the individual will cough and choke.
In recent years, the medical community has uncovered the following interesting statistic to contemplate: over 50 percent of people with later stages of COPD have GERD too. Unfortunately, what occurs is a vicious cycle in which the acid reflux of GERD can cause an increase in not only COPD symptoms but trigger flare-ups as well. Compounding the issue is that acid from the stomach can get into the lungs.
The Connection between COPD and GERD
With a higher prevalence of GERD with COPD sufferers than in the general population, this fact has prompted quite a bit of research as to the reason why. One theory proposed by a group in the United Kingdom believed the connection occurs due to the presence of a persistent cough along with changes in lung capacity and hiatal hernia development. The results of their findings were published in CHEST.
Appearing in BMC Pulmonary Medicine, a Korean study analyzed possible risk factors in patients with COPD of also developing GERD. The group concluded that the prevalence of GERD in patients with COPD was high. What made an individual at a higher risk were the following factors:
- Increase in age
- COPD medication, except for an inhaled muscarinic antagonist such as Spiriva
Whatever the cause for either disease, it is important to seek out proper treatment. Increased symptomology for COPD and GERD can wreak havoc on the other condition.