Laryngopharyngeal reflux is almost as difficult for doctors to diagnose as it is for patients to pronounce. In fact, laryngopharyngeal reflux can be so hard to detect and diagnose that it’s often called silent reflux.
But before we explain silent reflux, first we should briefly explain GERD — gastroesophageal reflux disease. Essentially, GERD is chronic or severe heartburn, which occurs when stomach acids rise up into your esophagus. When this occurs you experience a burning sensation in your throat and chest, most commonly called heartburn. In severe cases, chronic heartburn is called GERD, which causes health problems like cancer and ulcers.
Unfortunately, some patients experience laryngopharyngeal reflux instead. LPR is essentially chronic heartburn, without the heartburn. What does that mean? Patients suffering from LPR have stomach acid traveling up their esophagus, but without the burning sensation in their chest. While no one wants to suffer from heartburn, the discomfort and pain it causes is a warning to your body that something is wrong. And without this early warning system, the consequences of acid reflux can fester inside your body.
LPR and Ear Nose and Throat Problems in Children and Adolescents
Untreated LPR can lead to severe ulcers, ear infections, vocal cord surgery, emphysema, bronchitis, and in extreme cases, cancer. Because young people often have undeveloped sphincters, acid can more easily pass into the esophagus, making LPR one of the most common ENT problems in this population. However, adults can also suffer from LPR, often without realizing it.
Common symptoms in young people include hoarseness, chronic cough, worsening asthma, sleep disordered breathing, and trouble eating or gaining weight. In adults, chronic cough, a lump in the throat, trouble swallowing, and constant throat clearing are also common symptoms.
If any of those symptoms sounds overly familiar, contact an ENT doctor in your area. Acid reflux might be silent, but you don’t have to be!