Several articles ago I talked about the sad state of affairs surrounding the therapy for a scarring disease of the lungs, called pulmonary fibrosis, and specifically a variety called IPF. IPF is the most common cause of lung scarring and the outlook with this disease is poor, with average survival being 2-3 years following diagnosis.
One very interesting associated condition with this disease and one that may actually be part of the cause is a common GI disorder called reflux. When stomach acid and contents come up the food tube it may go down into the wind pipe. The amount of the material going down the wind pipe may be small. This process is called aspiration, and when only small amounts of material are involved we call this microaspiration. Most all patients with IPF have reflux. There is a growing body of scientific evidence that treating reflux may slow the progression of IPF. This is an extremely important finding since we have yet to find a specific therapy to treat this disease.
To be clear, although the case for the involvement of microaspiration in IPF is strong, it does not yet mean this is the root cause of the disease. What it does mean is that patients with IPF should have treatment for reflux and if you have symptoms of reflux you should have medical or surgical therapy to try and correct this problem. Remember, it is not enough to just have a treatment, but follow up is needed to see if that therapy is effective.