GERD commonly occurs with obstructive sleep apnea, a condition in which breathing stops temporarily many times during sleep. It is not clear which condition is responsible for the other, but GERD is particularly severe when both conditions occur together. Both conditions may also have risk factors in common, such as obesity and sleeping on the back. Studies suggest that in patients with sleep apnea, GERD can be markedly improved with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device, which opens the airways and is the standard treatment for severe sleep apnea.
Complications in Infants and Children
Feeding Problems. Children with GERD tend to refuse food and may be late in eating solid foods.
Associations with Asthma and Infections in the Upper Airways. In addition to asthma, GERD is associated with other upper airway problems, including ear infections and sinusitis.
Rare Complications in Infants. Although GERD is very common, the following complications only occur in rare cases:
- Failure to thrive
- Anemia resulting from feeding problems and severe vomiting
- Acid backup that is inhaled into the airways and causes pneumonia
The infant's life may be in danger if acid reflux causes spasms in the larynx severe enough to block the airways. Some experts believe this chain of events may contribute to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). More research is needed to determine whether this association is valid.
Review Date: 07/11/2010
Reviewed By: Reviewed by: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.