Managing Laryngopharyngeal (Silent) Acid Reflux


laryngopharyngealFor most people, the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) are pretty obvious, however when it comes to laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR), the problem isn’t always so easily recognized. This is because with LPR,  heartburn — GERD’s telltale sign — doesn’t always accompany the flare-up.

In fact, the symptoms of LPR can often be confused with symptoms of other ailments, and the disorder is often referred to as “silent reflux” because it is not easily diagnosed. The most common signs, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS), include:

    • Bitter taste in mouth
    • Burning in throat
    • Throat clearing
    • Difficulty swallowing
    • Post-nasal drip
    • Persistent cough
    • Hoarseness
    • Trouble breathing

Laryngopharyngeal reflux affects infants and children as well with the following symptoms (per the AAO-HNS):

  • Hoarseness
  • “Barking” or chronic cough
  • Reactive airway disease (asthma)
  • Noisy breathing or pauses in breathing (apnea)
  • Trouble feeding, spitting up, or inhaling food
  • Trouble gaining weight

At any age, reflux occurs when the muscle, which is responsible for keeping stomach acid from rising up into the throat isn’t working properly. This muscle is called the sphincter, and as a result of the malfunction, the acid can reach as high as the voice box (larynx) and the back of the nasal airway. Needless to say, this creates a very uncomfortable feeling.

When LPR occurs in infants and children, it is often due to a sphincter and/or esophaguses that has not had time to fully develop. In adults, the reflux can occur because of many causes, which the AAO-HNS cites as:

  • Malfunctioning or abnormal lower esophageal sphincter muscle (LES)
  • Hiatal hernia
  • Abnormal esophageal contractions
  • Slow emptying of the stomach
  • Diet (chocolate, citrus, fatty foods, spices)
  • Overeating, alcohol and tobacco abuse
  • Pregnancy

Most adults will have LPR at some point in their lives, however, when it becomes a chronic condition, the consistent pooling of stomach acid becomes dangerous. If you feel that you are experiencing any of the symptoms, make an appointment at Westwood Ear, Nose & Throat to find out for sure.

When you arrive, we will sit down with you to thoroughly discuss what you have been experiencing and your medical history. We will also evaluate your vocal quality, efficiency and speaking technique. To further pinpoint the problem, we’ll proceed with physical and diagnostic testing, which may include:

  • Endoscopic exams – Your physician will use a thin, flexible tube to look at your throat and vocal folds on a monitor.
  • pH monitoring – Your physician will place a small catheter through your nose and into your throat and esophagus. During this procedure, sensors detect the amount of acid present and a small computer worn at the waist records findings during a 24-hour period.

Whether treatment involves dietary changes, medication, or both, our expert physicians will create an individualized plan that will help you better manage your laryngopharyngeal reflux and get back to living life comfortably.

Call Westwood Ear, Nose & Throat at (888) 230-3715 today to make an appointment at one of our three conveniently-located offices.

And for all things ear, nose and throat related, visit our website and blog.

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