Silent reflux also is known as laryngeal, pharyngeal reflux is a condition in which the stomach acid causes a discomfort in the throat. The stomach acid and occasionally bile typically flows back into the esophagus thus irritating the throat. Most people with silent reflux do not show any symptoms such as heartburn and indigestion hence the name silent reflux. Silent reflux occurs among adults, infants, and children.
Risk factors of silent reflux
Silent reflux is not limited to any particular age and sex as persons of any age and sex can develop silent reflux. However, people
with the risk factors are more likely to get silent reflux. These risk factors mainly include; pregnancy, overweight, alcohol and tobacco use and physical deformities such as deformed esophageal sphincter.
Symptoms of silent reflux among adults
If silent reflux is not treated in adults, it could result to the damage of vocal cords. These symptoms include;
- Swelling and irritation of vocal cords
- Difficulty breathing
- Frequent throat clearing
- Sensation of post-nasal drip,
- Feeling like something is stuck in the throat
- A bitter taste at back of throat
- Difficulty swallowing
Symptoms of Silent reflux in infants and children
At least 40% of children worldwide show the symptoms of silent reflux. The typical symptoms of silent reflux among infants and children include;
- Noisy breathing
- Difficulty feeding
- Asthma, Sore throat
- Failure to grow and gain weight
- Ear infections
- Turning blue
Complications of silent reflux
Silent reflux can result in serious complications if not properly treated. In adults, some of the most common complications include increased the risk for cancer, asthma, ulcers, emphysema, and bronchitis. In children and infants, these complications include contact ulcers, breathing problems, narrowing of the area below the vocal cords and recurrent ear infections.
Diagnosis and treatment of silent reflux
Diagnosis and treatment of silent reflux are key to preventing any symptoms from occurring to avoid any damage to the lungs, voice box, throat, and esophagus. It is important to make an appointment with a doctor if you suspect you have these symptoms of silent reflux. Furthermore, if experiencing a heartburn more than twice a week for several weeks, it is worth going to the doctor for further investigation. Diagnosis of silent reflux is usually done by an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) specialist. The specialist will examine the throat and voice box of the patient using a lighted tube with a camera that is sent through the mouth and into the throat and esophagus of the patient. This procedure is usually easy and painless.
According to Gerrit, a silent refluxer and medical journalist at RefluxGate, the treatment of silent reflux is through the prescription of antacids, histamine antagonists, proton pump inhibitors and pro-motility drugs. Some of these medicines can be found over the counter as they do not require a prescription from a doctor. However, children and adults who have anatomical abnormalities or fail their medical treatments are usually given surgical procedures. These surgical procedures may include an endoscopy, where a laser or hand stitches are used to make the lower esophageal sphincter muscle tighter.
Prevention of silent reflux
To prevent silent reflux, it is advisable to maintain a healthy weight and avoid eating less than 3 hours before bedtime. Also, patients are encouraged to avoid smoking, drinking alcohol and caffeinated drinks, wearing tight and binding clothes especially around the waist and limit their intake of fatty, fried and spicy foods as these are associated with increased reflux.