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How Acid Reflux Relates to Sleep Apnea

Learn more about the connection between Acid Reflux and Sleep Apnea

There is a strong correlation with the condition of acid reflux and the diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).  Acid reflux, also known as GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease), is commonly detected with the annoying discomfort of heartburn on a routine basis, impacting the quality on one's life.  During sleep, your frequency of swallowing is decreased and less saliva is produced.  This leads to less clearance of acid in your throat, thereby increasing the exposure of the acid to the lining of your throat.  Numerous studies have verified the symptoms of GERD are increased in patients with OSA.

Laryngopharyngeal Reflux (LPR)-a.k.a. "Silent Reflux" also occurs for many of our patients.  There are two windows of closure (sphincters) at the end of your throat, in your esophagus: the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) and the upper esophageal sphincter (UES).  When the LES is not functioning properly stomach acid is backed up into the stomach and can cause what is frequently described as heartburn.  When the UES is not functioning properly this can cause the acid that is backed up in the esophagus to overflow into the airway and voicebox.  This is known as LPR.  A person can have LPR without any reflux symptoms.  What is referred to as heartburn, is acid that is pooled in the esophagus and stays for a period of time thus causing irritation.  If the acid passes quickly through the esophagus and pools in the throat heartburn symptoms more than likely will NOT occur, but symptoms of LPR more likely will. 

Symptoms of LPR:

  • Continual throat clearing
  • Chronic throat irritation
  • Chronic cough
  • Hoarseness
  • Post Nasal Drainage
  • Cracking Voice
  • Spasm of larynx
  • Heartburn
  • Excessive phlegm
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Constant sensation of something in your throat
  • Swallowed food comes back up
  • Weak voice
  • Blockage of breathing passage
  • Wheezing

Typically, LPR does not show evidence on a general reflux test that would be performed by a gastroenterologist.  Usually, LPR is evaluated for during an ENT visit via endoscopy.  This is where the back of the throat and larynx is visualized and the surrounding tissues are visualized and analyzed for any tissue damage.

      If you suspect any of these issues could be occurring, please advise both your physician and Dr. Hilton on your next visit to our office.  Often times there are rather simple solutions once the cause of your symptoms is determined.

    Interested in Learning More About the Connection Between Acid Reflux and Sleep Apnea? Would you Like to Begin Treatment?

    Dan P. Hilton, D.D.S. can help diagnose and treat these issues at his Woodland Hills Dental Practice. Schedule an appointment or contact us for more information.

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