The Cleveland Clinic

Heartburn and Asthma

It is estimated that more than 75% of patients with asthma also experience frequent heartburn, a condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). People with asthma are twice as likely to have GERD as those people who do not have asthma. Of the people with asthma, those who have a severe, chronic form of asthma that is resistant to treatment are most likely to also have GERD.

GERD is the chronic backward flow of stomach acids into the esophagus. Usually, stomach acid is kept in the stomach by a valve at the bottom of the esophagus called the lower esophageal sphincter. Sometimes, this valve becomes faulty. When this acid enters the lower part of the esophagus, it can produce a burning sensation, commonly referred to as heartburn. If left untreated, GERD can eventually lead to lung damage, ulcers in the esophagus (the swallowing tube), and in some instances "Barrett's esophagus," a condition that may lead to esophageal cancer.

Does GERD cause asthma?

Although studies have shown a relationship between asthma and GERD, the exact relationship is uncertain. GERD may worsen asthma symptoms, however, asthma and some asthma medications may worsen GERD symptoms. On the other hand, treating GERD often helps to also relieve asthma symptoms, further suggesting a relationship between the two conditions.