Laryngopharyngeal Reflux


Most people are somewhat familiar with the health condition known as reflux. Typically known as gastroesophageal reflux, this diagnosis is associated with painful heartburn and spicy food. Another physical ailment, known as laryngopharyngeal reflux, could be at play, however, if reflux occurs without common indicators, such as heartburn. There are other characteristics to look for if this condition is suspected.

What Is It?

Laryngopharyngeal reflux, or LPR, is considered to be a silent condition since episodes of heartburn and indigestion are generally not present. LPR involves the backward movement of acid from the stomach to the throat, causing irritation. Commonly, eating too much food in one sitting or lying down within three hours of eating a meal can trigger the reflux to occur and allow acid to escape the stomach.

Common Symptoms

Though heartburn isn’t usually associated with LPR, other symptoms may occur. People may experience voice changes, painful or difficulty swallowing, or the sensation of a lump in the throat. Excess mucus could be present as well which might trigger post nasal drip, coughing, or the need to repeatedly clear the throat.

Treatment Options

Lifestyle changes are usually recommended for this condition and may result in fewer symptoms of LPR. This includes remaining aware of the food and drink intake or the behaviors that might be contributing to the condition. For example, avoiding acidic foods, caffeinated beverages, alcoholic drinks, sodas, fried foods, or meals containing garlic, onion, butter, and oils may play a positive role in decreasing symptoms. To minimize the chance of LPR occurring, schedule meals and snacks so that they do not interfere with the goal of lying down. This could help keep reflux at bay, particularly when a three-hour gap is provided between eating and sleeping.

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If lifestyle changes do not seem to improve the condition or lessen symptoms, then a medication known as a proton pump inhibitor, or PPI, can be prescribed by a physician familiar with LPR. It’s generally indicated to take the medication on an empty stomach and 30 minutes prior to eating. Food consumption will interact with the medication, allowing the PPI to decrease the amount of acid produced in the stomach.

The Bottom Line

It’s normal for the stomach to produce acid for the purpose of proper digestion. The acid can be problematic when it begins to travel into the throat and irritate the tissue lining there. An examination by a physician may be warranted if lifestyle changes don’t help symptoms and to have a professional consideration of the risks of taking a PPI as a treatment option for LPR. For example, older individuals may be put at higher risk of developing osteoporosis or a hip fracture when taking PPIs. Others may experience c. dificile, a bacteria, or find that the medication could interact negatively with other prescriptions being taken. Generally, however, LPR is treatable, and a doctor’s visit can start the process of finding relief from the symptoms. Once a diagnosis is made, people suffering from LPR can begin taking the steps to improving wellness with a physician’s guidance.