Acid Reflux Disease and Sinusitis: What's the Sinus Infection Connection?

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What is GERD?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, known as GERD for short, is a chronic condition of the digestive tract. It involves stomach acids moving up into the esophagus, potentially damaging the sensitive tissue and causing a burning sensation. This is known as heartburn, and the movement of the acids is called acid reflux. If this reflux occurs more than twice a week, a patient is said to have GERD.

What is sinusitis?

Chronic sinusitis is a disorder of the nasal passages and cavities. When a person is experiencing sinusitis, they tend to have nasal pain and discomfort, difficulty breathing, and congestion. This is due to the inflammation found in the lining of the area. Those that suffer from chronic sinusitis will typically suffer for approximately 12 weeks with each flare up.

GERD and Sinusitis in Adults

In many occasions, there has seemed to be a link between acid reflux disease and sinusitis. Those that experienced one condition would generally suffer from the other. Many people have wondered if sinus infections & GERD were so closely linked that one could cause the other.

There has not been any concrete evidence that says acid reflux or GERD causes sinusitis. However, some doctors admit that it could be possible for some reflux to be the culprit of at least irritating the nasal passages, promoting the symptoms of a sinus infection.

Researchers have found that acid reflux can sometimes back up in the esophagus so far that it could reach and irritate the nasal cavity. This is a condition known as laryngopharyngeal reflux or LPR. If it can reach the throat, then the acid could also make it into the lungs. For this reason, it has been known to irritate asthma as well as the breathing passages.

Other doctors believe that the acid does not have to reach the nose in order for it to activate problems. Some think the link between acid reflux disease and sinusitis is a neurological one. As the acid passes the lower sphincter and irritates the lining of the esophagus, it could trigger a neurological change that causes the effects of sinusitis.

The idea that sinus infections & GERD are related was backed up by a 2002 study performed at the University of Nebraska. Patients received a noticeable improvement with their sinus issues when treating their acid reflux disease after 12 weeks. During the trial, the patients were not treated for their sinus problems.

Acid Reflux Disease and Sinusitis in Children

The link between acid reflux disease and sinusitis in children is even clearer than it is for adults. Scientists have reported that, since the esophagus is shorter, it is highly possible that acid reflux or LPR could be the cause or an irritant if the child were suffering from both. The good news is that most problems with acid reflux in young children are alleviated on their own as the sufferers age.