Silent Signs of Acid Reflux You Might Be Ignoring
Acid reflux can masquerade as everything from a cold to poor dental hygiene. Here are the red flags to watch out for.
Sore throat or hoarseness
A sore throat that doesn’t go away and isn’t accompanied by typical cold symptoms (like a runny nose) may in fact be a symptom of acid reflux. “Your throat feels sore because a little bit of acid is coming up from the esophagus and irritating the throat,” says Gina Sam, MD, MPH, a gastroenterologist and the director of the Mount Sinai Gastrointestinal Motility Center in New York, New York. Unexplained hoarseness may be caused by stomach acid moving up to your larynx, or voice box, and tends to be more noticeable in the mornings when it’s had all night to travel while you were lying down.
Persistent cough or wheezing
“Wheezing or a cough that mimics asthma or bronchitis can be caused by acid reflux moving from the stomach to the lungs,” says Evan Dellon, MD, MPH, from the Center for Esophageal Diseases and Swallowing at the UNC School of Medicine in North Carolina. On the other hand, wheezers and coughers can sometimes make themselves more prone to reflux, says Dr. Dellon, because the actions put pressure on the belly and push stomach acid upward.
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You’re having dental problems
If you’re a dedicated brusher and flosser but your dentist is still filling cavities, tells you your tooth enamel is eroding, or notices discolouration, acid reflux may be to blame. “Even a small amount of acid reflux making its way up from the esophagus to your throat or mouth while lying down can impact tooth enamel,” says Dr. Dellon.
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Ringing in your ears
If your ears always ring (a condition known as tinnitus)—especially after a meal—it may be caused by reflux getting into the sinuses and even the interior of the ear, says Dr. Sam. “A lot of patients see their ENT to get consults about sinus pain and ear ringing, but it’s often acid reflux,” she says.
You have trouble swallowing
Food getting stuck when you swallow, liquid that just won’t go down, or the sensation that something is stuck in your throat could all be signs of acid reflux, says Dr. Sam. Chronic reflux can irritate the throat, and scar tissue can develop in the esophagus and narrow it. See your doctor if you have difficulty swallowing, as this can also be a symptom of other more serious conditions.
Nasal congestion that comes and goes may be caused by acid reflux. “If you’ve tried cutting down on reflux-producing foods or eating late at night and the symptom doesn’t go away, it’s probably just congestion,” says Dr. Sam. “But if it goes away and comes back, and then goes away again, it’s probably acid reflux.”
Next, check out 20 symptoms you should never ignore.