ZocdocAnswersIs coughing associated with GERD?

Question

Is coughing associated with GERD?

What does coughing have to do with GERD? It has been 6 months since I was diagnosed with GERD, and I've kept it pretty well under control with antacids ? but I really can't seem to shake this cough. It's a dry cough, and it isn't productive. Is this caused by my GERD, or is it a different problem entirely?

Answer

Yes, coughing is associated with GERD, in fact it is quite common. The mechanism isn't completely clear, but likely ahs to do with the fact that early in development, the trachea ('windpipe') and the esophagus form from a common precursor and thus are linked by a common nervous system reflex. thus, irritation in the esophagus due to acid reflux causes a neuronally mediated reflex in the trachea and the end result is a nagging, dry cough. another theory is that very small amounts of refluxed acid are aspirated from the esophagus down the trachea and the direct caustic irritation of this acid fluid causes cough. The treatment for GERD related cough is control of the stomach acid reflux to prevent the above cough pathways. It is possible that your GERD is not completely controlled and that even though your do not have the classic 'heartburn' symptoms, you still may be having a small amount of acid reflux that is enough to cause cough by the above pathways. I would recommend discussing starting a proton pump inhibitor with your doctor as this medicine has been proven to be most effective at reducing acid reflux. If this does not help, your cough may be due to a number of other possibilities (post-nasal drip, asthma, ACE inhibitors) and you should follow up with your doctor for further evaluation. I hope this helps!

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