Do you periodically experience a tight, burning, or sore sensation in your chest, throat or stomach areas? Is that sensation accompanied by the bitter or sour taste of food or stomach acid? Maybe your voice becomes hoarse or sounds weird at the oddest times in the absence of cold, flu, or other respiratory ailments or activities? If the answer to any of those questions is yes, you may have laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR) or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or both.
C/V ENT Surgical Group offers safe, effective, and comprehensive treatment for patients in the Los Angeles and Thousand Oaks areas with heartburn, acid reflux or other GERD or LPR symptoms. To better understand the importance of timely diagnosis and treatment, review the following information on the effects of GERD on the throat.
GERD vs. LPR
Acid reflux is quite common. It happens when the contents of the stomach force their way upward through the esophagus into the mouth. Most people experience acid reflux a few times at some point in their lives. The condition is often triggered by the consumption of spicy and acidic foods or large meals and certain activities.
Chronic acid reflux is a common symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease GERD that flares frequently, but it is not the only one. Many people who suffer from GERD do not experience reflux or heartburn. Reflux that causes the stomach contents or bile to travel upward into the larynx (the voice box) or the pharynx (the throat) is known as LPR. This is also sometimes termed “Silent Reflux”.
Normally, the lower esophageal sphincter, the valve-like muscle that regulates the flow of food into the digestive system keeps the contents of the stomach from backflowing upward. Occasional lower esophagus sphincter dysfunction issues or acid reflux flares are normal. However, when the valve becomes dysfunctional from virus, disease, or injury, it can leak or remain partially open enough to allow the contents of the stomach to escape up into the throat and mouth. This often causes temporary and mild physical distress. But in more serious cases, the distress can be excruciating, making it difficult for sufferers to live happy and productive lives.
Chronic acid reflux is also known to many as a silent killer or LPR. Many people confuse the symptoms with other conditions, such as allergies or the common cold, however, it is important to get medical treatment for this. Medical intervention is also necessary to rule out the presence of other ailments or structural issues within the ears, nose, or throat that cause other health concerns that mimic the symptoms of GERD or laryngopharyngeal reflux. GERD symptoms include:
- Heartburn or tightness in the chest area
- Sore throat or voice hoarseness
- Bitter, sour, or bad taste in the mouth
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Pain in the abdomen and stomach
- Wheezing or labored breathing
- Ear fullness or pain
- Postnasal drip or persistent cough
- Object in throat sensation or difficulty swallowing
For many people, the most obvious signs of GERD are acid reflux and heartburn. Yet, those signs do not always occur in LPR/silent reflux patients. The most common indicators of laryngopharyngeal reflux are throat irritation, difficulty swallowing, postnasal drip, throat soreness, hoarseness, cough, chronic throat clearing and wheezing, etc. The condition affects everyone differently.
How Does Gerd/LPR Affect the Throat?
Silent reflux and moderate to severe cases of GERD that occur two or more times a week can damage the tissues and structures in the larynx and throat. Chronic reflux often occurs randomly, even when the stomach is empty. The frequent exposure to stomach acid and digestive enzymes may irritate the throat and esophagus, causing pain or heartburn. The reflux can also travel into the back of the throat and nasal airways, causing a painful, stinging sensation in the nostrils. The symptoms are not always noticeable, causing many people to overlook the possibility of having GERD or LPR.
Stomach acid irritates the sensitive tissues in the throat, larynx, and esophagus, increasing the risk of injury. In the absence of heartburn, many people suffering from acid reflux, LPR, or other gastroesophageal disorders notice pain and burning sensations in the chest, nose, or stomach, changes in voice tone and pitch, redness and soreness of the throat or voice box, throat phlegm, difficulty swallowing, etc.
Los Angeles and Thousand Oaks area patients come to C/V ENT Surgical Group routinely treat patients seeking a cure for the distressing symptoms of acid reflux, LPR, and GERD. Untreated or advanced cases of laryngopharyngeal reflux or gastroesophageal reflux can cause polyps, inflamed lesions, or cysts to form on the vocal cords, resulting in chronic laryngitis and respiratory ailments like asthma. In rare cases, nose, esophagus, or trachea cancers, or other serious and life-threatening conditions may occur.
If you experience voice changes or hoarseness, have trouble swallowing, feel heartburn, or develop a cough or throat soreness or swelling that lasts longer than three weeks, a medical evaluation with the specialists at C/V ENT Surgical Group is necessary within three months of symptom onset. The diagnostic process for each patient includes a complete medical history review and physical and visual assessment (using videostroboscopy, laryngoscope, and other medical scopes) of the ears, nose, and throat to determine the cause and facilitate timely and proper treatment.
Treatment options are often diet and lifestyle changes, weight loss, medications first line and at times include microsuspension or direct laryngoscopy or microsurgery to remove any polyps, lesions, bumps, etc., on the vocal cords and correct underlying structural issues within the ear, nose, or throat. Some treatment regimens may include voice therapy to recondition the vocal cords and cure hoarseness.
If you experience acid reflux with or without heartburn pain, abnormal changes in the tone and sound of your voice, or persistent cough or sore throat, contact C/V ENT Surgical Group to learn if you have GERD or LPR or some other ear, nose, or throat disorder. Our ENT specialists will get to the root of the problem and help you determine if medications or alternative treatments are necessary to improve your health and overall quality of life.