What is silent GERD?

Those who have silent GERD do not have the typical symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Instead of experiencing the normal heartburn associated with this condition, people with silent GERD have other symptoms that they don't recognize as part of acid reflux. For this reason, these people may have to participate in several tests before getting a diagnosis of GERD.

Each person creates a certain amount of hydrochloric acid. This type of acid helps a person digest food in the stomach, and when everything in the body is normal, it stays in the stomach or travels down, where it is diluted and digested. With GERD, hydrochloric acid travels to the lower esophagus, causing heartburn. Sometimes the acid will even get into your mouth, often leaving a sour taste.

With silent reflux, you don't feel heartburn as the acid moves up the esophagus. Instead, symptoms such as hoarseness, sore throat, and shortness of breath are experienced. Acid that rises into the mouth can eat away at the enamel on a person's teeth, weakening them, discoloring them, and sometimes causing them to fall out. Those who have asthma and silent GERD may find that their asthma symptoms worsen because the acid has irritated their throats and made it difficult for them to breathe.

Many of the symptoms of silent GERD are not typical of acid reflux disease, so people who have them don't realize they have GERD. People with silent GERD may find that they frequently have sinus problems after doing something that requires bending over. Bending over actually allows hydrochloric acid to enter the esophagus more easily. Due to the proximity of the esophagus to it, the nose defends itself by creating mucus, often resulting in a stuffy or runny nose.

Due to the fact that heartburn is not experienced, a doctor will likely need to run a couple of tests to diagnose a person with GERD. He can control the pH level in a person's esophagus, or he can put a person on a proton pump inhibitor, which reduces the amount of acid in the stomach. A doctor might also do an endoscopy or X-ray after a person has swallowed some barium. These types of tests usually help diagnose silent GERD.

Treatment is usually the same for silent GERD as it is for normal GERD. Antacids and H2 blockers can be taken over the counter or prescribed by a doctor. A proton pump inhibitor, which may have been used for silent GERD testing, may be continued to help reduce the amount of acid reaching a person's esophagus.

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