Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease/Vocal Cord Dysfunction

Many allergic or asthmatic conditions can be complicated by gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and/or vocal cord dysfunction (VCD). It is important to identify GERD and VCD in conjunction with treatment for allergies and asthma in order to limit unnecessary medications or more serious outcomes.  The Board Certified Allergists of Allergy & Asthma Specialists are specially trained to determine if GERD and/or VCD are complicating treatment for allergies and asthma.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is a common condition in which the contents of the stomach, including acid, can back up into the esophagus and/or throat. It occurs because the ring of muscles, or lower esophageal sphincter, that separate the top of the stomach from the esophagus is weak and does not close tightly allowing the flow of stomach contents back into the esophagus. Post nasal drip and mucus accumulation in the stomach often triggers GERD in atopic individuals.   

GERD is prevalent in asthma patients and must be considered as a trigger for asthma flares.

Vocal Cord Dysfunction

Vocal Cord Dysfunction (VCD) is a condition where the vocal cords close abnormally when breathing in and trigger a sensation similar to asthma. VCD is not uncommon in asthma patients. VCD can come on suddenly or gradually, often by one trigger. Triggers include: GERD; exercise, strong odors from perfume, gas, or cleaning products; smoke; chlorinated pools; infection; allergens; and emotional stress.

Understanding the difference between an asthma attack (difficulty exhaling) and a VCD attack (primarily difficulty inhaling) will help a patient better understand when to use an asthma rescue inhaler or to use VCD breathing exercises. We may also do specialized breathing tests to determine if VCD is present.

Symptoms of GERD include:

  • Chronic cough or sore throat
  • Hoarseness
  • Wheezing
  • Asthma
  • Apnea
  • Dental Erosions
  • Laryngitis, Sinusitis, Ear Infections
  • Belching

Symptoms of VCD include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Hoarseness and/or wheezing
  • Chronic cough and/or throat clearing
  •  Throat tightness
  • “Air Hunger” or trouble getting air
  • Exaggerated sighing

Examination

Your examination at A&AS for GERD and VCD may include lung function testing and/or skin testing