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GERD Connected to Adult-Onset Asthma

A study published earlier this month in JAMA Surgery established the link between two common diseases - Gastroesophageal reflux disease also known as GERD and adult-onset asthma – which can be caused by GERD.

“That’s a very challenging diagnosis to make oftentimes because up until recently we didn’t have technology that had the sensitivity that enabled us to make that diagnosis,” said Blair Jobe, one of the study’s authors and the Director of West Penn Allegheny’s Institute for the Treatment of Esophageal and Thoracic Disease.

Jobe says this connection matters because, “there’s an intervention or a therapy that could create an anatomic barrier to the retrograde movement from the stomach up to the airway and thus causing exposure to digestive enzymes and acid.” He says if physicians can use diagnostic testing to identify an intervention it can potentially do a patient a lot of good.

What is GERD

GERD is defined as the reverse movement of fluid – rather than going down the esophagus into the stomach and into the small intestine, the fluid goes from the stomach into the esophagus.

“Because there is such a large number of people who have this disease it is not surprising that there is exposure to the lungs with fluid reaching all the way up to the voicebox,” said Jobe.

GERD diagnoses are on the increase – up to twenty percent of Americans experience symptoms once a week and require therapy. 

Researchers believe the increase in diagnoses is related to the morbid obesity epidemic. There is also thought that ulcer-causing bacteria is related.

Jobe added the disorder can also cause pulmonary health risks and is a cause of adult-onset asthma.


Their research focused on a newer GERD diagnostic technique. They found that patients with GERD-induced asthma had relief from asthma symptoms after undergoing anti-reflux surgery.

Jobe says this is a very prospective study that used retrospective data and has all the flaws inherent in that.

However he says real-world physicians and patients can use this information.

“If one has adult-onset asthma and there is no obvious reason why they are developing that asthma this form of testing may potentially shed some light as to why they have developed this disease, if it is GERD related,” he said.