I am one of the people who, like you, have had my lungs badly effected by GERD. My reflux was very unimpressive when tested. My asthma and family doctor were both convinced that my asthma was being made uncontrollable by reflux. I had had reflux for probably twenty years and it had gotten progressively worse. At the time my lungs were out of control, I was taking 40mg Protonix twice a day, and 300mg Zantac at night, to no avail.
five years ago I was hospitalized for asthma caused by a stomach/reflux episode caused by an antibiotic that inflamed my stomach lining. While I was hospitalized my GI team did absolutely nothing to help me. They didn't even deal with my diet--I was receiving spaghetti as a dinner entree.
I was coughing, wheezing, nebulizing, taking inhalers, using high doses of inhaled steroid with intermittent (ineffective) prednosone. Nothing worked. I stupidly spent four years like that. Don't make that choice.
I changed GI docs, and my second doctor did a 24hour PH monitor test to see how bad my reflux was. The test showed an extremely low result--4. He also did a manometry that showed my swallowing was normal, but there was a weakness in the less. That said, he told me with confidence, that my reflux was not causing my asthma. I had already had an endoscopy that showed no inflammation in my esophagus.
That said, my family doc and asthma doc were still convinced that my reflux was the problem. (I also have allergies that do affect my lungs, but NOTHING like the way they were at this point.) They both thought that I needed a Nissen Fundoplication to close stomach valve that was allowing acid to reach my lungs.
I continued to struggle for a couple more years, and finally my family doctor got so frustrated that he sent me to a surgeon he worked closely with. The surgeon did another endoscopy and a barium swallow, confirming my hiatus hernia (small) and slightly
open LES. He said that I was a good candidate for a Nissen and said I should schedule the surgery. He trusted my family doctor and the information he had been given regarding my out of control asthma.
I wasn't ready to go have someone do surgery without more information. Also, I'd learned here and other places that without a good surgeon (extremely skilled and successful with Nissens in particular) the results could be devastating.
So...I went back to my GI doc, armed with the new information. He did another 24hr PH monitor, and the results were 14--a very unimpressive number. At this point, though, with all the communication and frustration of my family and asthma docs, he admitted that it wouldn't take many acid reflux episodes to create problems, so the reflux could indeed be causing my problems. He told me I could either continue on meds to treat it, or go talk to a surgeon he recommends for the procedure.
I'd tried meds. They didn't work. So I went to the surgeon to talk about
my issues, and consider surgery as an option.
I had feared the surgery...if you look around the internet, you'll find lots of very unhappy people who had the surgery and will warn against it. If I hadn't found this forum, I probably would still be suffering with asthma. People here had a much more realistic and helpful attitude. Because they basically saved my life (my family doc said my condition was life-threatening) I stay around here and do what I can to help others in search of answers. Many people on this forum have become my long-distance friends!
My surgeon said that his only concern was that the number (14) was very borderline. He told me that the surgery would help my asthma if that reflux was causing the problem. He was willing to go ahead with the surgery even with the low number, based on the input from my doctors.
I'd had it at this point. While I was not thrilled to have surgery, I knew that I had to give it a try. If it didn't work, then the reflux cause would be ruled out. I really didn't have a choice. I couldn't go on living like I was. The amount of steroids I was taking was very unhealthy.
I had the surgery in February 2009. I was in the middle of a lung infection when I had the surgery. They couldn't wait for my lungs to get better to do it, since they were always bad.
It took about
two and a half months post surgery to heal my very unhealthy lungs. Since the surgery, my lungs have been great. As I said, I do have asthma-related lung flare-ups, but nothing at all like they were before surgery.
Keep in mind that it took me four years to come to the decision to have surgery. Hindsight is 20-20, and I wish I'd done it years earlier. I have long term damage from steroids.
That's not to say that my asthma is perfect now. I'm in the middle of allergy season--ragweed is bad for me--and I've got a little mucous in my lungs I'm dealing with (sinus issues, too). I do not have any wheezing--even with my normal asthma issues, they are NOTHING like before surgery.
I'm not telling you you need surgery. I'm just sharing my own experience with reflux and asthma.
I hope you find an answer to your problem soon.
If you have any additional questions, feel free to ask.