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Cystic Fibrosis and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Tue, 12/29/2015 - 15:55 -- IV Solutions

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), also called acid reflux disease, is caused by stomach acid rising up out of the stomach and damaging the lining of the throat. Left untreated, this damage can cause serious throat problems likes sores and scarring. 

GERD is common in people without cystic fibrosis, but is even more common in people with CF. In 2012, 30.5% of people with CF reported having problems with GERD.

GERD is more common for people with CF for several reasons:

  • The opening separating the stomach and throat can weaken
  • Chronic coughing can cause extra pressure
  • Overinflated lungs can press on the diaphragm
  • Some CF medications can cause GERD as a side effect

Healthy v.s. GERD Diagram

Symptoms & Diagnosis of GERD

Please note that the symptoms for GERD are similar to symptoms for a heart attack. If you are also experiencing shortness of breath and pain of the jaw or arms, seek medical attention right away.

The primary symptoms of GERD are heartburn andregurgitation. Heartburn is a rising, burning pain in your chest or throat. Regurgitation is when stomach acid rises into your throat or mouth. Other symptoms include having trouble swallowing, coughing, a sore throat, the feeling of a lump in your throat, nausea, and vomiting.

Describing your symptoms may be enough for your doctor to diagnose GERD. It is normal for your doctor to perform anendoscopy, a procedure where a thin tube with a camera on the end is used to check the throat for damage. Your doctor might also use x-rays to examine your throat.

Ambulatory acid probe tests can be used to measure the amount of acid in your throat. One type of probe is a flexible tube inserted through the nose, and another is a clip placed in your throat during an endoscopy examination. Esophageal motility testing uses a different tube inserted through the nose to measure movement and pressure in the throat.

Treatment of GERD

Many medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, treat GERD. They work by neutralizing stomach acid or reducing its production. Talk with your doctor about what solution will work best for you. In some cases, surgery might be needed strengthen the opening that separates the stomach and throat.

You can do several things to manage GERD at home. Raise the head of your bed, so you sleep with your head higher than your stomach. Everyone has different foods that trigger heartburn, so find out what they are and avoid them. Don’t wear clothes that fit too tightly around your waist.

With CF, you have to be careful about your diet. Make sure to talk with your doctor about your eating habits. Get professional advice on whether you can help your GERD by eating smaller meals or avoiding eating right before bed.

Working hard to manage your gastroesophageal reflux disease will make it easier to live with cystic fibrosis. Call your doctor today if you are experiencing symptoms of GERD. IV Solutions serves all 50 states and distributes prescription medications for GERD. Visit the IV Solutions Patients Page to learn how to become a new patient with us today. You can also call our 24/7 pharmacist at 800.658.6046 with any questions that you might have. 

Would you like to know more about living with cystic fibrosis? IV Solutions has articles about managing chronic sinus and lung infections and cystic fibrosis-related diabetes (CFRD).


Use the Right GI Medications. Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. July 20, 2012. 

Patient Registry: Annual Data Report 2012. Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. 2013. 

Gastroesophogeal Reflux Disease (GERD). Toronto Adult Cystic Fibrosis Centre.

GERD: Definition. Mayo Clinic. 

GERD: Treatments and drugs. Mayo Clinic.