Acid reflux is also known as GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease. It is acid buildup. People who have it know how uncomfortable and disturbing it can be. But sometimes, there can be acid buildup with no symptoms.
Many asthma sufferers have a difficult time controlling asthma, no matter what medication they use. And some of them also have another co-existing condition: GERD. But they may have no symptoms.
"Medical asthma, acid reflux, there is a proportion of patients who for, whatever reason, have acid in their esophagus," said Dr. John Mastronarde, of the Ohio State Medical Center. "But they just don't feel it. It doesn't hurt."
"And the question is, if they don't have symptoms , should you be treating the acid reflux?" asked Dr. Joan Reibman, of Bellevue-NYU Langone Medical Center. "Would that help to control the asthma?"
Dr. Reibman was among the dozens of doctors nationwide who went to find that answer.
The researchers put 412 patients in the study randomly on either Nexium, a mediation to treat acid reflux, or a look-a-like sugar pill. They wanted to compare the effects.
After six months, the treated group was no better.
"They really had no improvement in their asthma symptoms, and they were basically the same as the folks who just got a placebo or a sugar pill," Dr. Mastronarde said.
Dr. Mastronarde ran the study, sponsored by the American Lung Association.
He says the findings are important because it will keep doctors form over-medicating those with asthma and acid reflux.
"It spares the patient money, potential side-effects and really forces me to focus on other things that could be making their asthma worse versus GERD," he said.
The study is being published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The American Lung Association says people with silent acid reflux are spending millions believing it will help control attacks of asthma. But remember, no one should discontinue any medication without first speaking to their doctors, as each patient's needs are unique and will vary.
WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King
NEW YORK AND TRI-STATE AREA NEWS
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