What Is Laryngopharyngeal Reflux?
Laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR) occurs when the contents of the stomach and upper digestive tract reflux into the back of the throat and nasal passages.
LPR is often associated with the immediate effects of gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD). This condition occurs when the rings — or sphincters —responsible for closing off the digestive system do not close entirely. Normally, when people eat or drink, food or liquid passes through the esophagus into the stomach, where these rings allow digestion to begin. In the case of LPR, however, digestive acids and food may pass back up into the mouth or sinus cavity.
While GERD and LPR may occur at the same time, people can experience LPR without being diagnosed with GERD and vice versa. People of all ages and genders may be affected by LPR, but the condition may vary in severity and its impact on overall health.
LPR often presents in several noteworthy symptoms, especially in adults, although symptoms may vary slightly depending on a person’s age and condition. The most common symptoms of LPR are:
Burning sensation in throat — This pain is caused by acid refluxing up through the esophagus.
Choking sensation — Choking is the feeling of something being stuck in the back of the throat.
Difficulty swallowing — Pain or discomfort can cause swallowing issues.
Sour or bitter taste in mouth — Foods or acids that pass back up from the stomach can leave bad tastes in the mouth.
Throat clearing — The acid and food in the throat may exacerbate the need to clear the throat.
Voice changes — Reflux can cause inflammation to the vocal cords that results in deepened voice, hoarseness or trouble speaking.
Treatment of LPR depends largely on the severity of the condition. LPR can range from mild to severe, and appropriate courses of treatment depend on the level of care necessary to minimize or prevent symptoms. Because LPR may result from a structural abnormality or lifestyle factors, treatments are prescribed accordingly. Available options include:
Lifestyle modification — Eliminating certain foods or beverages, such as spicy food, caffeine and carbonated drinks, can minimize or entirely prevent LPR symptoms. Losing weight and smoking cessation can also help manage LPR.
Medication — Over-the-counter or prescription antacids can be used to manage LPR symptoms.
Surgery — Surgical repair to the valve connecting the stomach to the esophagus may be required to correct structural abnormalities that contribute to LPR.
For many patients, successful LPR treatment requires a combination of lifestyle modifications and medication.
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