Lung Disease Affects More Than Lungs

COPD and bronchioectasis patients were more likely to have gastric reflux than people without lung disease

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Lung disease often leads to difficulty breathing, congested airways and inflammation of lung tissue. Recent research suggests it might affect other parts of the body as well.

A new study looked into a possible link between certain types of lung disease and gastric reflux — a condition in which acid from the stomach leaks back up into the esophagus.

The researchers found that people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or bronchiectasis were twice as likely to have chronic gastric reflux compared to people without lung disease.

Many of the lung disease patients diagnosed with gastric reflux did not exhibit obvious symptoms.

The results of this research could affect the way doctors look for reflux symptoms in patients who have been diagnosed with lung disease.

"Quit smoking to reduce the risk of getting COPD."

Annemarie Lee, PhD, of the Physiotherapy department in the Melbourne School of Health Sciences at The University of Melbourne, led this study to see if people with certain lung problems were more likely to have reflux.

The researchers looked at people with COPD, a type of lung disease. People with COPD have a breakdown of lung tissue and cannot breathe well. COPD is most frequently caused by smoking.

They also looked at patients with bronchiectasis, a type of COPD. Bronchiectasis causes the airways to become wider and inflamed. It often results in a limited ability to cough up mucus.

The study looked at whether people with COPD or bronchiectasis were more likely to have gastroesophageal reflux.

Gastroesophageal reflux is a condition in which stomach contents leak back up into the esophagus, which is the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach. The condition can be painful and cause more severe problems with the esophagus.

The researchers studied 27 participants who had COPD, 27 participants with bronchiectasis and 17 control participants without lung disease. Of the participants, 17 with COPD and 16 with bronchiectasis had previously been prescribed anti-reflux therapy.

The participants each completed a questionnaire about their reflux symptoms. They also had the levels of acid in their esophagus measured for 24 hours.

The participants who had lung disease also had their pepsin levels measured. Pepsin is a substance in the stomach that helps break down food. The severity of participants' lung disease was also monitored.

Afterward, the researchers used the data to find the prevalence of gastroesophageal reflux in the participants who did and did not have lung disease.

Of the participants who did not have lung disease, 18 percent were diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux. Of the COPD patients, 37 percent had gastroesophageal reflux. And of the bronchiectasis patients, 40 percent had gastroesophageal reflux.

Of the participants who had both bronchiectasis and gastroesophageal reflux, 58 percent had mild bronchiectasis, and 42 percent had moderate to severe bronchiectasis.

The participants who had either COPD or bronchiectasis were twice as likely to have reflux problems than the control group without lung disease. The severity of the lung disease did not affect the participants' likelihood of having gastroesophageal reflux.

"An increased prevalence of distal and proximal gastroesophageal reflux was demonstrated in a group of individuals with well defined COPD or bronchiectasis and appears not to be confined to those with severe lung disease," the researchers concluded.

This research was published in the October issue of Respirology.

The authors disclosed no funding sources or conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
September 24, 2013
Last Updated:
December 30, 2013