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Study Shows Acid Reflux Can Cause Adult Asthma

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Many people have acid reflux, which is known to cause esophageal cancer.

But could it also be to blame for adult-onset asthma?

A new study conducted by Pittsburgh researchers says yes.

Carol Manning of Cannonsburg developed Asthma three years ago as an adult.

"No matter how you tried, you just couldn't get a breath," she said.

She didn't have symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux, though she had that too.

"I had no sour taste in my mouth," Manning said. "I had no indigestion."

Her diagnosis came as a surprise.

"The average person refluxes four times a day," Manning said. "It showed I refluxed 44 times a day."

She participated in a study to see if surgery could fix adult-onset asthma.

A study in the journal "Jama Surgery" says for people with reflux, an operation to relieve their symptoms of heartburn, nausea, cough and sore throat, also relieved their symptoms of asthma-related wheezing and trouble breathing.

Doctors used a new diagnostic technique called impedance testing to figure out if people had asthma because of reflux.

Instead of putting in a probe to check acidity at just the bottom of the swallowing tube, this probe checks at levels all along the swallowing tube for 24 hours. The thought is that acid gets washed back, forms a mist and ends up going down the windpipe and into the lungs.

"It only takes a small amount, small exposure to the lungs that ultimately leads to the development of asthma," surgeon Dr. Blair Jobe said.

Of the 27 study patients with adult-onset asthma, 19 had had an abnormal test. Twenty patients had anti-reflux surgery to wrap the stomach around the bottom of the swallowing tube.

"If you're greater than 20 years of age and you have medication-dependent asthma, you should probably have an impedance test," Jobe said.

As for Manning, she's glad she took part in the study.

"I had an inhaler in my car, in my husband's truck, on the head of my bed, in my purse and in my pocket," she said. "And now I find myself, I don't even think of an inhaler."

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