Silent reflux is a condition in which the stomach acid causes throat discomfort. Also known as Laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR), silent reflux is similar to acidity, wherein there is reflux action, meaning backflow of stomach contents into the esophagus. This causes irritation in the throat. It is called silent because people who suffer from it do not show the typical symptoms associated with acidity such as heartburn. LPR can develop in infants as well as adults; it is treatable.
There are rings of muscles at the upper and lower ends of the esophagus known as sphincters. They act as valves which open to let swallowed food pass and close behind it to keep food and stomach contents where they belong. Reflux occurs when stomach contents leak back through the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) into the esophagus.
Infants may suffer from silent reflux when their LES muscles aren’t fully developed. Also, babies spend a lot of time lying down, which causes food pressure on the sphincters. In the case of adults, silent reflux occurs due to their lifestyle and diet choices.
Most individuals suffer from heartburn at some point in their lives. But if the symptoms reoccur, for example twice or thrice a week, the condition is serious. In this instance, it is known as gastroesophageal reflux disease.
If the individuals having the chronic form of heartburn ignore the condition for a long time, it can lead to a variety of health complications. Here are reasons why you shouldn’t ignore the signs of silent reflux:
Damage to vocal cords: A sensitive organ, it can be easily be damaged by continuous exposure to acidic contents of the stomach.
Infections of the ear/sinus: This can happen in children. The infection can also narrow the area below the vocal cords and change their voice permanently.
The risk of cancer: In adults, apart from vocal cord damage, silent reflux can also increase cancer risk. If the individual is suffering from asthma or bronchitis, the condition can worsen.
Dietary and lifestyle changes are often effective in eliminating silent reflux. Hence, you must adopt these changes for the long term, as they can return if one resumes old diet habits. Avoid spicy and acidic foods such as tomatoes, all citrus foods, and their juices as they trigger heartburn. Cut down on carbonated beverages to bring less acid to the throat. Keep away from foods that weaken the lower food pipe valve, including chocolate, alcohol, and caffeine. Lastly, quit smoking and drastically limit or quit alcohol and avoid eating immediately before bedtime.
Based on your symptoms, your doctor may suspect silent reflux and may prescribe you conventional anti-reflux medication, such as antacids and H2 blockers. But, these medicines have their own side effects and may do more harm than good in the long run. In some cases, the doctor may advise a surgery to strengthen your esophageal sphincter if it has become weak. You may have to do a series of X-rays of the upper gastrointestinal system or digestive tract.
Silent reflux is a potentially serious condition. However, right medication at the right time can help you keep the symptoms under control and avoid complications.
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