Silent Reflux: A Hidden Epidemic

Jamie Koufman, MD, F.A.C.S. Founder & Director, Koufman Reflux Director, Voice Institute of New York

Posted on | By Jamie Koufman, MD, F.A.C.S. | Comments ()

What you don’t know can kill you. Silent reflux is acid reflux that does not produce heartburn or indigestion. You don’t know you have it, and yet it can still cause cancer.

Often overlooked and misdiagnosed, silent reflux affects over 50 million Americans. The backflow of stomach acid and digestive enzymes (pepsin) can wreak havoc on your esophagus (the food passage that goes from your throat to your stomach), as well as your ears, nose, throat, vocal cords, sinuses, mouth, and lungs. Pepsin, in the presence of acid, digests protein and damages tissue. Outside the protected stomach, pepsin, bathed in acid, digests you! And when pepsin attacks your sensitive airway and esophageal tissues, you can suffer all kinds of problems. 

The most common silent reflux symptoms are hoarseness, chronic cough, throat-clearing, post-nasal drip, sinusitis, sore or burning throat, difficulty swallowing, shortness of breath, snoring, sleep apnea, bad breath, tooth decay, asthma, and COPD. Unfortunately, your doctor is probably unaware that these symptoms may be caused by silent reflux and that it could be controlled with the proper diagnosis and treatment.

Did you know that asthma is one of the most common misdiagnoses, because silent reflux mimics asthma? Here’s a big tipoff: When you have trouble breathing, do you have more difficulty getting air IN or OUT? People with reflux have trouble getting air IN during inspiration (not out during expiration). People with asthma have difficulty getting air OUT of the lungs. In truth, many people with “asthma” may not actually have it, and, consequently, asthma medication doesn’t really help much if at all. The fact is that once the correct diagnosis is made, effective anti-reflux treatment can permanently cure this asthma-like breathing problem.   

 

How Do I Know If I Have Silent Reflux?

 

One of the characteristics of silent reflux is that most people who have it have several different symptoms all at the same time, but often heartburn isn’t one of them.

Article written by Jamie Koufman, MD, F.A.C.S.
Founder & Director, Koufman RefluxDirector, Voice Institute of New York