FRIDAY, Jan. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Chronic heartburn is a major cause of asthma in adults, a new study suggests.
The finding could help add asthma to the known health risks -- including esophageal cancer -- already associated with chronic heartburn, which is formally known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and is one of the most common digestive disorders in Western nations.
GERD occurs when a muscle at the end of the esophagus fails to close properly. This allows stomach contents to leak back (reflux) into the esophagus and irritate it. GERD symptoms include frequent heartburn, chest discomfort, dry cough, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness or sore throat, and regurgitation of food.
In this study, researchers used a new, specially designed catheter that measures levels of acid reflux exposure within the patient's airway. They believe that this new method (known by the acronym HMII) was much more effective than conventional techniques in identifying patients with GERD-induced asthma.
The researchers also found that for the majority of patients, asthma symptoms eased after they underwent surgery for GERD, according to the study published Jan. 23 in the journal JAMA Surgery.
"We have observed for some time a strong association between GERD and certain pulmonary [lung] diseases, including adult-onset asthma," study author Dr. Blair Jobe, director of the Institute for the Treatment of Esophageal and Thoracic Disease at the West Penn Allegheny Health System, said in a health system news release.
"The real challenge, however, has been our limited ability to effectively diagnose these patients and determine who precisely may benefit from surgical intervention," he added. According to Jobe, the newly devised test "is much more sensitive as means of detecting GERD in asthmatic patients than what we have traditionally relied upon."
The findings are strong enough to warrant consideration of H
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