Coughing and GERD
Gastroesphageal reflux disease or GERD, is most commonly associated with symptoms of heartburn, a sour taste in the mouth, difficulty in swallowing and chest pain. There is another symptom, however, that is just as common in GERD, despite the fact that it is often overlooked – coughing.
When most people get a cough, they assume that it is caused by a cold or some other virus. For smokers, they may just assume that the cough is due to their smoking habits. In a way, this is true but it is not the complete answer. GERD can and does cause coughing, often chronically.
Wheezing or other asthma-like symptoms may also be present with a GERD cough, further confusing the sufferer. They may mistake the cough for an upper respiratory infection or even the development of asthma.
How GERD Causes Coughing
It may seem a little confusing that GERD and cough are associated together but once you understand how GERD works, it makes a little more sense. GERD is a condition in which stomach acid is allowed to re-enter the esophagus, either because of a weak valve between the stomach and esophagus or by excessive stomach acid production.
When the acid re-enters the esophagus, it can irritate nerves in the esophagus, causing nerve stimulation. The stimulation triggers the coughing. In many GERD cough cases, there is just enough stomach acid being sent back through the esophagus to trigger a cough but not enough to cause heartburn. In some severe cases, stomach acid production can be so excessive that stomach acid is allowed to enter the lungs. Still, in other cases, no stomach acid is present, only stomach bile, which is less irritating to the esophagus but still irritating enough to cause a cough.
Difficulty in Diagnosing
Because cough is such a common symptom in so many different health conditions, even your doctor may have a difficult time diagnosing a GERD cough. This can be especially true if cough is the only symptom you are experiencing. There are, however, a few considerations that can help you and your doctor to pinpoint whether or not your cough is a symptom of GERD or some other health condition.
Is Your Cough a GERD Cough?
If you have a GERD cough, you may notice that your cough is triggered after eating certain foods or if you eat too much or lay down shortly after meals. You will also notice that cough suppressants and cold medicines are not effective at treating your cough. Cough drops are also ineffective at treating your symptoms.
If you suspect that you have a GERD cough, try taking an over-the-counter antacid after the cough starts. If this seems to reduce the symptoms, even if only for a short period of time, it is likely that your cough is a symptom of GERD. Just make sure that you tell your doctor what types of home treatments you have used and which ones worked and which ones didn’t so that they can accurately diagnose your condition.
Why is a Diagnosis Important?
Often people wonder why a diagnosis is important, especially for a condition as simple as a GERD cough. While diet, exercise, lifestyle changes and weight loss can help to reduce or even eliminate GERD, diagnosis should still be a priority. This is because, should your symptoms return or should your natural efforts be futile your doctor will need to know your diagnosis so that they know what treatment methods to use next. Additionally, other severe health conditions can cause chronic cough. If your cough is not caused by GERD, then you and your doctor need to know the real source.
Treatment Options for GERD Cough
If it is determined that your cough, is in fact, a result of GERD, you and your doctor can come up with a treatment plan. Your lifestyle, diet and overall health will be taken into account when deciding which treatment options are best for you.
Some of the most common treatment options include diet changes, lifestyle changes, regular exercise and weight loss. These are often effective at treating GERD in most sufferers, but sometimes, they are not enough. Medication or surgical procedures may be needed to ensure effective treatment for your condition.
Why Treatment is Important?
You may feel that a chronic cough isn’t that big of a deal – that you can live with it and you don’t need treatment for your GERD cough. Nothing could be further from the truth, however. GERD, if left untreated, can cause long-term health complications, including chronic inflammation of the esophagus, ulcers and even difficulty in swallowing.
Treating your GERD effectively can help you avoid long-term health complications. It can also rid you of your current symptoms, before they get worse. If you suspect that you have a GERD cough, you should talk to your doctor about your symptoms and treatment options.