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Gastroesophageal reflux and asthma

Susan M Harding, MD, FCCP, AGAF
Section Editor
Peter J Barnes, DM, DSc, FRCP, FRS
Deputy Editor
Helen Hollingsworth, MD


Gastroesophageal (GE) reflux is common in patients with asthma and has been identified as a potential trigger for asthma [1-4]. GE reflux is a comorbidity associated with severe or difficult-to-treat asthma. GE reflux is thought to affect asthma through the activation of vagal reflexes and/or microaspiration.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) refers to symptoms or signs suggestive of reflux [5]. The typical symptoms of GERD are heartburn and regurgitation. Other symptoms suggestive of GERD include dysphagia, chest pain, hypersalivation, globus sensation, odynophagia, and nausea. Esophageal inflammation is not necessarily present.

The relationship between GE reflux and asthma will be reviewed here. Other issues related to GERD are discussed separately. (See "Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of gastroesophageal reflux in adults" and "Medical management of gastroesophageal reflux disease in adults".)


Respiratory symptoms, including those associated with asthma (eg, cough, dyspnea, wheeze, and chest tightness), are increased among patients with gastroesophageal (GE) reflux [6]. Reciprocally, GE reflux is common among patients with asthma. Estimates of the prevalence of GE reflux among patients with asthma have varied from 30 to 90 percent [1,7-20]. Part of the variability may be due to differences in the definition of GE reflux, and the extent to which objective measures of reflux were used.

The following examples illustrate the range of findings:

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Nov 13, 2017.
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