Acid Reflux Disease and Sleep Apnea
Do you ever get a reminder in your mouth and throat, letting you know what you had for dinner? If you suffer from acid reflux disease or gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), food or stomach acid can come back to haunt you, which is commonly described as heartburn. It is estimated that 60 million individuals living in the United States suffer from this common ailment. Symptoms tend to increase at night and 75 percent of people with GERD are awakened from sleep by their acid reflux. Then the question is the following: Can GERD cause sleep apnea or vice versa?
It is first important to understand what occurs with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) as well as GERD. People who are affected by OSA stop breathing throughout the course of a night’s sleep due to an obstruction. OSA is seen most often in middle-aged men who are overweight trending toward obesity. With GERD, stomach acids leak up into the esophagus, which can result in damage to the lining. The disease tends to develop in middle age, especially so in obese individuals, with the valve located toward the bottom of the esophagus weakening. During sleep, if the acid refluxes only into the esophagus, the sufferer will have heartburn. However, when the acid backs up as far as the throat, the individual will cough and choke and thus wake up from sleep.
There is still some speculation about whether or not GERD causes OSA or it is the other way around. The results are not clear. Some experts have theorized that changes in airway pressure with OSA may cause reflux to develop and others believe that the acid reflux can produce vocal cord spasms, which in turn can lead to OSA.
What Causes GERD
The mechanism by which someone develops GERD is largely not know but there have been a number of factors that make people more susceptible. They are:
- Weight (i.e. obesity)
- Diet (the following foods can trigger acid reflux attacks: fatty and fried foods, spicy foods, citrus fruits, caffeinated beverages and chocolate)
- Alcohol usage
In addition, beside heartburn, people with GERD can also experience the following symptoms or some no symptoms at all:
- Gum inflammation
- Bad breath or halitosis
- Acid regurgitation
For the most part, treatment for GERD involves lifestyle modifications such as avoiding foods that can trigger attacks, losing weight and quitting smoking. Medication such as esomeprazole magnesium (Nexium), can be used to successfully treat GERD, and if that does not help, surgery is a viable treatment option.
Published in the Annals of Otology, Rhinology, and Laryngology, researchers studied whether or not treating GERD in patients with OSA helped reduce the severity of their sleep apnea. They discovered that the patients who were given esomeprazole magnesium for their GERD significantly reduced the number of sleep apnea episodes as well lessening daytime sleepiness, snoring and other symptoms of OSA.
Despite the fact that the exact cause between the two conditions has not been decided, experts do agree that treating one condition helps lessen the severity of the other. The only glitch would be those patients who are being treated for OSA with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) and experience the side effect that air enters their stomach, which makes their GERD worse.
If you have been wondering whether or not your GERD might be affecting or an indication of sleep apnea, contact one of our medical concierges today at 1-855-863-4537 or schedule a free consultation when it’s convenient for you.