Silent reflux disease – symptoms, causes, complications

Silent reflux disease
MODEL RELEASED. Young woman coughing.

The silent reflux disease is also known as laryngopharyngeal reflux. It is a similar condition to GERD which results from the contents of the stomach backing up (called reflux). But the symptoms of silent reflux disease are often different than those that are typical of GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).

When you have silent reflux disease, then you may not have the classic symptoms of GERD, such as burning sensation in your lower chest (this is known as heartburn). The silent reflux disease is difficult to be diagnosed and the symptoms that are not similar to those of GERD is a reason why it is called silent reflux disease. The silent reflux disease can develop in infants and children. This condition is treatable.


Silent reflux disease

Here are some symptoms of silent reflux disease in infants and children:

  • Trouble gaining weight
  • Trouble feeding, spitting up or inhaling food
  • Ear infections
  • Noisy breathing or pauses in breathing (apnea)
  • Vomiting
  • Reactive airway disease (asthma)
  • Barking or chronic cough
  • A sore throat
  • Turning blue
  • Failure to grow
  • Hoarseness

Nowadays, scientists are trying to discover if there is link between the silent reflux disease and the sinusitis and recurrent ear infection. It is known that children who have silent reflux disease will not always vomit or regurgitate. It is a common condition for infants to spit up but when some infant has problems with breathing and feeding, then they can be signs of more serious health problems. You should talk with the doctor of your child to discover what the real cause for its symptoms is.

There are some symptoms, such as vomit that contains blood or projectile vomiting which can be indications of serious health problems. If you have noticed these symptoms, then you need to talk with your doctor as soon as possible. When someone has GERD, then the persistent acid reflux is happening 2 times per week in a period of 3 weeks or more. The silent reflux disease is similar but it does not have indigestion and heartburn.

When adults have silent reflux disease, then they can have heartburn or a bitter taste or burning sensation in the back of the throat. But adults who have this disease have fewer chances to have the classic symptoms of GERD. In the most cases, symptoms of silent reflux disease in adults are vague and they can be easily confused with other diseases. The most common symptoms of silent reflux disease are next:

  • A lump in the throat that does not go away with repeated swallowing
  • Hoarseness
  • Persistent cough
  • Excessive throat cleaning

Also there can be other symptoms of silent reflux disease, such as

  • Sore throat
  • Trouble breathing
  • Trouble swallowing
  • You may have a sensation of postnasal drip or excess throat mucus


We know that at either end of the esophagus there is a ring muscle (sphincter). These muscles are keeping the contents of your stomach where they belong and that is the stomach. But when someone has silent reflux disease, then sphincters do not work. The stomach acid backs up into the voice box (larynx) or back of the throat (pharynx) or it can back up into your nasal airway.

This can lead to inflammation in the areas which are not protected against the gastric acid exposure. The silent reflux disease is very common condition in infants because their sphincters are not developed and they have a shorter esophagus and they lie down much of the time. The cause for silent reflux disease in adults is not known.


The stomach acid which pools in the throat and larynx can cause long – term irritation and damage. If you do not treat this condition, then it can be serious. In infants and children the silent reflux disease can cause:

  • Lasting buildup of middle ear fluid
  • Frequent and recurrent ear infections from problems with Eustachian tube function
  • Contact ulcers
  • Narrowing of the area below the vocal cords

In adults, this condition can scar the voice box and throat. This can increase the risk for cancer in the area, affect your lungs and it can irritate some conditions, such as bronchitis, emphysema or asthma.


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