The Silent Acid Reflux: Laryngopharyngeal Reflux (LPR)

AHC icon onlyThe most commonly known acid reflux disorder is called Gastroesophageal Reflux (GERD). Popular treatment medications, such as Prilosec, Prevacid and Pepcid, have catchy television commercials showing actors complaining of heartburn and indigestion. GERD is a disorder caused when the lower esophageal sphincter opens and stomach acids come back up into the esophagus.

A lesser known kind of reflux is Laryngopharyngeal Reflux (LPR). It is often called “silent reflux” because it doesn’t usually produce heartburn and people don’t associate their symptoms with acid reflux.  LPR occurs when the upper esophageal sphincter opens and leaks the stomach acids up into your throat, airway and/or your mouth. The stomach acids and digestive enzymes irritate and damage the delicate tissues of the throat and airway, leading to scarring and potentially cancer.

Common symptoms of LPR are hoarseness, feeling of a “lump” in throat, difficulty swallowing, chronic cough, persistent throat clearing, postnasal drip, sore throat or bitter/burning taste in mouth. LPR is diagnosed by a physician, usually an ENT or GI specialist, who uses a small camera to look at your throat and vocal cords for signs of irritation. If you have LPR, your doctor may recommend medication and/or lifestyle changes. Depending on your symptoms, you may also be referred to a swallowing or voice therapist.

Common Lifestyle Suggestions

  • Avoid tight fitting clothes at the waistline (reduces pressure on stomach sphincter)
  • Raise head of bed four to six inches (uses gravity to help keep acid in stomach)
  • Remain upright after eating for three hours (uses gravity to help keep acid in stomach)
  • Don’t overeat (reduces pressure on stomach sphincter)
  • Lose weight, if overweight (reduces pressure on stomach sphincter)
  • Quit smoking, if a smoker (tobacco relaxes stomach sphincter muscles)
  • Avoid fried and high-fat foods. (slows digestion)
  • Avoid caffeine, carbonation, chocolate, mint, tomato, citrus and alcohol (relaxes stomach sphincter muscles)

About Kerry Winget

Kerry Winget, AuD, CCC-SLP/A is a licensed speech language pathologist at St. Agnes Hospital. She has been working with adults in the medical setting for over 15 years. She has special interest in swallowing disorders and treatment. She recently earned her 9th Award for Continuing Education (ACE) from the American Speech and Hearing Association.

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