A foot being held back by two chains connected to a pair of lungs and a stomach showing GERD

Community Views: Asthma and Comorbidities

Last updated: December 2022

People with asthma frequently live with other illnesses as well. These are called comorbidities. Doctors use the term comorbidity to describe a condition that occurs at the same time as another condition. Comorbid illnesses can interact in ways that make both worse.1

Asthma does not cause the other illness. But the illnesses do show up together often enough to suggest a connection.1

We were curious about the other conditions you experience. We reached out to the Facebook community and asked members: “Do you live with other health conditions in addition to asthma? How does your asthma impact these comorbidities or vice versa?”

The community's comorbidities with asthma

You shared many different health conditions with us. Here are the ones mentioned most frequently.

GERD

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), commonly called acid reflux, was a frequently named comorbidity. GERD is the process of stomach acid coming back up into the esophagus. When this happens repeatedly, it irritates the esophagus lining. GERD can contribute to:2

  • Inflammation of the vocal cords
  • Persistent cough
  • Worsening asthma symptoms

“When I get acid reflux, sometimes I have trouble breathing after that.”

“My GERD affects my asthma, and my asthma affects my GERD. It’s all connected.”

“Acid reflux. Apparently, it can go hand-in-hand with asthma. But wait, there's more! Acid reflux contributes significantly to dental decay.”

“I have to be careful what I eat or the reflux will absolutely make my asthma flare up.”

“I have asthma and my gastro doctor told me to tell my allergy doctor that a good portion of my asthma is due to GERD. So, I'm on 1 Prilosec® in the morning and 1 Pepcid® before bed. Amazing how much better I feel.”

Allergies

Another common comorbidity you mentioned was allergies. Allergies are overreactions from your immune system. The immune system mistakes a substance as a threat, for example:3

  • Food
  • Pollen
  • Dust

Your immune system then produces antibodies to fight the supposed invader. The extra antibodies create an allergic reaction. Allergies often manifest in the nose, throat, lungs, and sinuses – areas also impacted by asthma.3

“Numerous allergies.”

“Allergies and sinus. When I get a sinus infection, it affects my asthma terribly! I’ve had 4 sinus surgeries over 30 years.”

COPD

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) was another comorbidity you mentioned. COPD is an umbrella term primarily for chronic bronchitis and emphysema. It is a permanent, progressive lung disease that compromises breathing ability. Some people receive a diagnosis of asthma/COPD overlap syndrome.4,5

“I have moderate persistent asthma and stage 1 emphysema. My pulmonologist said the emphysema is so mild it doesn't need treatment! The asthma on the other hand does.”

“I have Alpha-1 (genetic COPD) along with allergies, asthma, COPD, and emphysema.”

“CAT [also known as CT] and PET scans indicate scarring in the lungs with early emphysema.”

“Asthma with a COPD component.”

Autoimmune diseases

Many of you also mentioned living with autoimmune diseases. An autoimmune disease is when the body attacks healthy cells. It cannot tell the difference between your healthy cells and foreign cells. Autoimmune diseases impact different body parts. Common symptoms of autoimmune disease are:6

  • Joint pain and swelling
  • Digestive issues or abdominal pain
  • Fatigue
  • Skin problems
  • Fevers

Autoimmune diseases you mentioned include:

  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Psoriasis
  • Hashimoto’s
  • Eczema
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Inflammatory bowel disease

“I have ankylosing spondylitis (autoimmune arthritis of the spine). Because of my weakened immune system, it doesn’t take much for me to get sick with viruses and infections.”

“I was just diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. The best thing to do for that is low-impact exercise. I can’t exercise due to the asthma.”

“If I stick to my anti-inflammatory diet it keeps the asthma in check, and it keeps the arthritis in check.”

Thank you

We appreciate everyone sharing the comorbidities that affect you alongside asthma. Living with multiple chronic illnesses can be challenging. In this community, you have support and understanding.

Other ways to share

If you have asthma and a comorbidity and would like to share your story with the community, please feel free to share your story here, or join the comorbidities forum.

If you have not done so already, you can also participate in our comorbidities poll here, to help us learn more about our community members and the conditions you contend with.

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