Are you constantly having sore throats and mouth ulcers? Is your throat always hoarse? Are you always downing massive doses of multivitamins and herbal concoctions so you can be rid of your perpetual sore throat once and for all?
You may be suffering from laryngopharyngeal reflux disease (LPRD).
What is laryngopharyngeal reflux disease (LPRD)?
LPRD happens when your stomach contents come back up through the oesophagus to the pharynx and larynx (see pic below).
What Causes LPRD?
At the end of your oesophagus, there’s a ring of muscles which keeps the contents of your stomach in its place. When you have LPRD, this ring doesn’t work well, which causes your gastric contents (acid, pepsin, and bile) to flow right back to the throat, nose, and even ears through your oesophagus.
As the throat is very vulnerable to gastric juices, the backflow of these contents wreaks havoc on your oesophagus and causes inflammation. If untreated in the long term, the reflux can lead to oesophageal or laryngeal cancer.
Find Out if You Have LPRD
The reflux causes injury and also prolongs and worsens any inflammation in these areas. This in turn leads to the many problems caused by LPRD – ear inflammation, nasal sinus inflammation, pharyngitis (which causes sore throats), laryngitis (causes husky voice or loss of voice, and painful cough), tonsillitis (inflammation of the tonsils), oral ulcers and thinning of the dental enamel.
A person with LPRD may experience symptoms like:
- sore throat
- hoarseness of voice
- prolonged voice warm-up time in the morning
- bad breath
- excessive phlegm
- throat irritation and dryness
- frequent throat clearing
- sensation of a lump in the throat (globus)
- postnasal drip (excessive throat mucus)
- difficulty swallowing.
- Attacks of coughing and choking at night
- difficulty in breathing
Check your score on the 9-point reflux symptom index below. If you get 10 or above, chances are you’re suffering from LPRD and should get yourself to a doctor quickly:
When an ENT doctor examines you for LPRD, he looks for signs of inflammation and oedema (swelling) of the larynx and other indirect signs such as ulcers and swells.
The diagnosis is made when other causes have been ruled out and the symptoms and signs strongly point to LPRD. Anyone with a hoarse voice for more than two weeks should also be examined to rule out cancer of the larynx.
In difficult cases, a 24-hour oesophageal PH monitoring study measuring the stomach acid may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis.
How Can I Treat LPRD?
LPRD takes time to resolve, and requires you to make a change in lifestyle as well as medication.
To improve your LPRD condition:
- reduce coffee and alcohol intake
- reduce fatty, fried or oily food
- increase your intake of fruits and veggies
- time your meals so you don’t lie down until 4 – 6 hours after a heavy meal
- don’t work out or exercise right after a meal as this causes abdominal muscles to contract strongly and pump the contents of a full stomach back up to your oesophagus
Medications such as H2-antagonists and proton-pump inhibitors are prescribed to reduce acid production and the treatment can take as long as six weeks to three months for the symptoms to be fully resolved.
In bad cases, surgery may be necessary to tighten the sphincter around the lower end of the oesophagus to prevent the acid reflux.
Gastric juices escaping the stomach don’t just burn your oesophagus and throat, it can have long-lasting detrimental effects like cancer. If you feel that you’ve been exhibiting many of the signs above, go see an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) specialist and get the issue addressed quickly.
Have you suffered from LRPD before? How did you cure it? Share your story with us in the comments below or on our Facebook page!