When you hear gastroesophageal reflux, you probably think about heartburn and stomach issues but unfortunately, gastroesophageal reflux can also cause problems in the throat and larynx. When acid frequently backs up into the esophagus alone, it is known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). If the stomach acid refluxes all the way up the esophagus into the throat or voice box, it is known as laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR).
GERD and LPR may occur together, but people may have symptoms from LPR alone without typical heartburn symptoms. LPR can start to cause damage to the larynx and may need medical attention.
GERD and LPR often result from lifestyle factors and occasionally structural abnormalities. Eating foods like chocolate, citrus, fatty foods, spicy foods or having habits like overeating, eating late, lying down right after eating, and alcohol/tobacco use will likely cause GERD and LPR. Avoiding or at least minimizing these foods or habits can significantly improve symptoms. Physical causes such as obesity, pregnancy, having a hiatal hernia, abnormal esophageal spasms, and slow stomach emptying can also increase one’s chances of reflux.
Diet and lifestyle changes are often effective in treating most cases of GERD and LPR. However, occasionally medications and even certain procedures are necessary to fully relieve symptoms and prevent damage to the larynx, esophagus and other structures.
Here at the ENT Specialists of Wisconsin we see many individuals with symptoms of LPR. Diagnosis is based on history of symptoms, exam and often a diagnostic exam that can visualize the larynx, (a.k.a. a laryngoscopy), pH testing in the throat or swallowing tests. If you or a loved one has symptoms, contact us today for a consultation and treatment plan.