Silent Reflux – What is it and how do you diagnose and treat it?
What is silent Reflux?
While many people are familiar with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and its primary symptom, heartburn, people may not be aware of a related but distinct condition known as laryngopharyngeal reflux disease (LPR) or silent reflux. Silent reflux affects over 50 million Americans, yet the condition is often overlooked and misdiagnosed. Left untreated, this condition not only causes several bothersome symptoms but can also lead to life-threatening cancer.
The most common symptoms of silent reflux are hoarseness, chronic cough, throat clearing, excessive throat mucus, postnasal drip, sensation of lump in the throat, sore or burning throat, difficulty swallowing, shortness of breath, and bad breath. Silent reflux may also be confused with other conditions such as sleep apnea, asthma, and COPD. It is important to distinguish silent reflux from these other conditions as the consequences of misdiagnosis may have dire consequences, and the treatment for each condition is quite different. As you may have noticed, heartburn is not listed as a common symptom of silent reflux and it is the absence of this symptom that often leads to confusion by patients and misdiagnosis by clinicians who may not be unfamiliar with silent reflux.
One reason why silent reflux is often overlooked is because medical specialists often learn about different aspects of how stomach acid and enzymes affect the body. For instance, gastroenterologists are knowledgeable on the affects of stomach acid and enzymes on the stomach and esophagus. Pulmonologists are concerned with their affects on the lungs and airways. With regard to silent reflux, which primarily affects the throat and sinuses, otolaryngologists are most likely to identify and treat the condition. Therefore, it is important to seek out the right medical specialist to properly diagnose and treat silent reflux.
How to diagnose and treat Silent Reflux?
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of silent reflux described above, you should schedule an appointment with us at NW ENT & Allergy. Your visit will include a thorough discussion of your symptoms, as well as a procedure called a fiberoptic nasopharyngoscopy. During this procedure we use a small, fiberoptic camera to visualize the throat and voice box. We are looking for swelling and irritation of these areas that are indicative of silent reflux. We are also looking for signs of throat cancer, certainly the most serious and dire manifestation of silent reflux.
Treatment for silent reflux may include medication to neutralize stomach acid, dietary changes, and/or lifestyle modifications, such as changing meals times and weight loss. It is important to understand that silent reflux is often difficult to treat and it may take weeks to months to alleviate your symptoms. Take action against silent reflux and schedule an appointment with us today.