Silent reflux is a medical condition that is a form of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Unlike typical GERD, silent reflux does not cause heartburn or indigestion but can still lead to other serious health problems if left untreated.
In silent reflux, the lower esophageal sphincter does not close properly and stomach contents, including acid and digestive enzymes, can leak back into the esophagus. This can cause irritation and damage to the esophagus, leading to a host of symptoms that are often mistaken for other health conditions.
So, what are the symptoms of silent reflux and what is the best way to treat it?
Symptoms of Silent Reflux
Hoarseness and sore throat: Acid reflux can irritate the throat, leading to hoarseness and a persistent sore throat.
Coughing: The acid can cause a persistent cough and make it difficult to breathe.
Chest pain: Chest pain is a common symptom of silent reflux, but it can be mistaken for other conditions, such as a heart attack.
Difficulty swallowing: Acid reflux can cause a burning sensation in the throat, making it difficult to swallow.
Asthma symptoms: Acid reflux can worsen asthma symptoms and make it difficult to breathe.
Chronic sinusitis: Silent reflux can cause inflammation in the sinus cavities, leading to chronic sinusitis.
Ear infections: Acid reflux can cause fluid to build up in the middle ear, leading to ear infections.
Postnasal drip: Acid reflux can cause a postnasal drip, leading to a persistent runny nose and a feeling of mucus in the throat.
Bad breath: Acid reflux can cause bad breath and a sour taste in the mouth.
Treatment for Silent Reflux
Lifestyle changes: The first step in treating silent reflux is to make lifestyle changes that can help reduce the symptoms. This may include losing weight, eating smaller meals, avoiding foods that trigger acid reflux, and quitting smoking.
Medications: Antacids, such as Tums and Rolaids, can help neutralize the acid in the stomach and relieve the symptoms of silent reflux. H2 blockers, such as Zantac and Pepcid, can also help reduce the amount of acid produced by the stomach.
Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs): PPIs are medications that can help reduce the amount of acid produced by the stomach. These medications are effective in treating silent reflux and can provide relief from symptoms for several weeks to several months.
Surgery: In severe cases of silent reflux, surgery may be recommended to strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter and prevent acid from leaking back into the esophagus.
Alginates: Alginates are medications that can form a protective barrier in the stomach, preventing acid from leaking back into the esophagus.
Dietary changes: Certain foods and drinks can trigger acid reflux and make symptoms worse. Avoiding these foods and drinks can help relieve the symptoms of silent reflux. This may include fatty or fried foods, alcohol, chocolate, and citrus fruits.
Raise the head of the bed: Keeping the head of the bed elevated can help reduce the symptoms of silent reflux by preventing acid from flowing back into the esophagus.