What Is Silent Reflux

The condition known as acid reflux is a common ailment that affects 15 million Americans. The term reflux comes from a Greek word meaning "backflow" which is fitting since the painful symptoms associated with acid reflux are a result of the backflow of stomach acid up the esophagus

These acids, necessary in digestions, are allowed to escape the stomach and rise up the esophagus due to a faulty flap at the top of the stomach which is supposed to keep the stomach fluids down. Common effects of acid reflux are gas and heartburn Sometimes, though, there is no heartburn, but a more mysterious set of effects such as:

  • Hoarseness
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Chronic cough
  • Excess throat mucus
  • The feeling of a lump in the throat.

This form is known as LARYNGOPHARYNGEAL REFLUX, (LPR) or Silent Reflux. In the case of silent reflux, the stomach acid not only rises up the esophagus but makes it all the way up into the larynx or the pharynx.

It can occur during the day or night and unlike regular acid reflux, it does not happen exclusively around eating times. Because of the "silent" nature of this form of reflux it is difficult to diagnose.

Obvious signs include excessive throat clearing, difficulty swallowing and the feeling of a lump in the throat. The specialist who handles silent reflux is the Otolaryngologist or Ear, Nose, and Throat Doctor.

Swollenness and/or redness in the voice box and the lower throat are a good indication of silent reflux. There are two common tests, usually ordered together to check for silent reflux. A Barium swallow involves x-rays taken after swallowing a chalky material.

This test demonstrates how your entire swallowing mechanism is working. pH Metry is the other test and it requires an overnight stay at the hospital that takes 24 hours to complete.

In this test a soft, flexible tube, called a pH probe, is connected at one end to a computer worn around your waist, and placed through your nose to stay in your throat overnight. It measures acid in the esophagus and throat. Neither procedure is painful, but each is unpleasant in its own way.

Treatment for silent reflux is individualized ranging from a simple change in diet to medication and in some cases surgery. Some things that cause reflux include smoking, alcohol, caffeine, tight clothing, fried foods, red meat, and dairy.

Limited amounts of these things is healthy to anyone is any situation and a good place to start when improving reflux or your general health.

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