Many people have heard of gastroesophageal reflux disease. It is hard to miss the advertising for drugs that help with it. Fewer have heard of laryngopharyngeal reflux, which can be very dangerous because it mimics other conditions and is often overlooked by doctors.
What is laryngopharyngeal reflux?
Both gastroesophageal reflux and laryngopharyngeal reflux are caused when the contents of the stomach back up into the esophagus. The main difference is how far up they go. With gastroesopageal reflux, the material stops at just about the base of the esophagus. This causes the heartburn that bothers people with it so much. As annoying as it is, that pain is actually a good thing. People do not like pain. They feel it and they want to do something about it so they go the doctor. Any damage done by the reflux (reflux is derived from the Greek word for “back flow”) can be corrected or prevented.
In cases of laryngopharyngeal reflux, the contents go much further up. In these cases, they go up to the voice box or larynx. Because people with this condition do not always feel any heartburn, it often referred to as “silent reflux.” As a consequence, it is not always caught or treated and is hard to diagnose/
What are the symptoms?
People who have laryngopharyngeal reflux experience a lot of throat clearing and a chronic cough and hoarseness. They often complain of having what feels like a “lump” in their throat or an abundance of nose and throat drainage. Many people assume they have a cold. It is important to see an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor as laryngopharyngeal reflux can mimic some common ENT problems. It may not be one of the most prevalent ear nose and throat problems in children and adolescents but they can suffer from it.
It is important to note that only half of laryngopharyngeal reflux will experience heartburn as a result of the condition. The reason is that the materials from the stomach travel a decent distance from the area where heartburn would be felt. In gastroesophageal reflux, it causes the pain because of where it get and where it stays. It takes a lot less of these contents to bother the larynx. Laryngopharyngeal reflux can also lead to breathing difficulties.
Children may have the same symtoms as adults. A child who has a chronic cough or hoarseness should be brought to a pediatric ENT Tampa. Do not assume this is an uppser respiratory infection.
There are things that can be done at home to make it easier to live with. Here are some steps you can take to feel better:
Reduce the amount of acid in the diet. If the stomach does not create as much acid, there will be less of it to leave the area and irritate the throat and larynx. Cut down or eliminate foods that cause or encourage acid production, these include:
- Fried food
- Red meat
- Carbonated beverages
- Citrus beverages and foods
Eat more foods that reduce stomach acid, such as:
- Almond milk
- Green vegetables
Do not lie down right away after eating. People who have laryngopharyngeal reflux should avoid lying down right after they eat. This is one way to keep the stomach contents where they are supposed to be.
Eat less processed foods. This is good advice for everyone. Processed foods are just bad for you. Rather than get your fruits and vegetables from cans, get the fresh variety. It has been found that there has been a dramatic increase in certain cancers. By some estimates, esophageal cancer is up by as much as 850% over the last 40 to 50 years. Many experts attribute that to what we eat. Processed foods have more acid. Ascorbic and citric acids are used to preserve foods so avoid them to get less acid in your diet.
An ENT may run some tests and prescribe medications to control the acid production in the stomach. It is important to see a doctor to make sure the acid from the stomach does not do any damage to the throat or voice box. The good news is that there are things that can be done to improve how a person feels and those steps can lead to a healthier life.