What is laryngopharyngeal reflux, or LPR?
This is a common disorder where acidic contents from the stomach go up beyond the esophagus and into the area around your voice box creating irritation and inflammation. Small amounts of acid can damage this area of your throat since it is not equipped like the esophagus to handle acid exposure. As few as 3 reflux episodes can cause severe laryngeal inflammation and injury.
What is “silent reflux”?
This is the name given to LPR since many patients do not experience classic heartburn or indigestion, and in fact, may be completely unaware it is occurring. Some common symptoms of LPR include hoarseness, a feeling of mucus in the throat, or throat clearing. It may occur when you are upright or lying down.
How is LPR diagnosed?
Swelling and irritation around the voice box can be indicative of acid reflux. Your ENT provider has special scopes to visualize this area in the office.
A 24 hour pH probe monitor is a great test to objectively measure and confirm acid reflux. This test detects acid that occurs above your esophagus. A small probe is placed into one nostril and sits above the back of the throat. It does not interfere with eating, drinking or sleeping. This test is more sensitive in diagnosing LPR than traditional pH testing. Additionally, this test is easy to administer, is more comfortable and less expensive than standard pH manometry.
What is the best treatment for LPR?
Your doctor may prescribe a Proton-Pump Inhibitor (PPI) or a different class of antacid medication. It is important to take the medication every day as prescribed. It can take 4-6 weeks for the inflammation to appear improved on exam.
Besides medication, lifestyle changes are very important. Elevation of the head of the bed (using wooden blocks or a wedge pillow) is a great way to decrease acid reflux at night. Some studies show this to be more effective than medication. Avoidance of caffeine, chocolate, acidic juices (OJ, Grapefruit), peppermints, and spicy food help. It is beneficial to stop eating 2-3 hours before lying down, and to eat smaller, more frequent meals rather than large meals.
Why is it important to treat LPR?
Laryngopharyngeal reflux has serious potential consequences. Barrett’s esophagus is a precancerous condition of the esophagus that happens in a small percentage of people who have acid reflux. Chronic acid exposure creates changes in the esophagus which can potentially become cancer of the esophagus. It is important to have routine checkups with your ENT provider.