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What is throat reflux? What are the symptoms?

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What is throat reflux? What are the symptoms?

Throat reflux, also known as laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR) or silent reflux, is a condition where stomach acid and digestive enzymes flow back up into the throat and larynx. This differs from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which primarily affects the lower esophagus. Throat reflux can cause a variety of symptoms, which can vary in severity from person to person.

The main cause of throat reflux is a malfunctioning lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which is a muscular ring that separates the esophagus from the stomach. When the LES fails to close properly, stomach acid can flow back up into the throat, causing irritation and inflammation. Other factors that can contribute to throat reflux include obesity, pregnancy, smoking, certain medications, and a diet high in fatty or acidic foods.

The symptoms of throat reflux can be similar to those of other conditions, making it sometimes difficult to diagnose. However, there are several common symptoms associated with throat reflux that can help identify the condition. These symptoms include:

1. Hoarseness: One of the most common symptoms of throat reflux is a hoarse or raspy voice. This occurs due to the irritation and inflammation of the vocal cords caused by the stomach acid.

2. Chronic cough: Throat reflux can trigger a chronic cough that is often dry and non-productive. The cough may worsen at night or after eating, as lying down or consuming certain foods can exacerbate the reflux.

3. Sore throat: Throat reflux can cause a persistent sore throat, which may feel scratchy or irritated. The throat may also feel dry or have a lump-like sensation.

4. Difficulty swallowing: Some individuals with throat reflux may experience difficulty swallowing, also known as dysphagia. This can occur due to the inflammation and narrowing of the esophagus caused by the reflux.

5. Excessive throat clearing: Throat reflux can lead to excessive throat clearing or the sensation of a “lump” in the throat. This is often a result of the irritation and mucus production caused by the reflux.

6. Postnasal drip: Throat reflux can cause excess mucus production, leading to postnasal drip. This can result in a constant need to clear the throat or a feeling of mucus dripping down the back of the throat.

7. Chronic sinusitis: Throat reflux can contribute to chronic sinusitis, as the acid and mucus can irritate the sinuses and lead to inflammation and infection.

8. Asthma-like symptoms: In some cases, throat reflux can trigger asthma-like symptoms, such as wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. This occurs when the acid irritates the airways, leading to bronchospasm.

9. Globus sensation: Throat reflux can cause a globus sensation, which is the feeling of a lump or something stuck in the throat. This can be persistent and cause discomfort or difficulty swallowing.

10. Dental problems: The acid from throat reflux can also affect the teeth, leading to enamel erosion, tooth sensitivity, and an increased risk of cavities.

It is important to note that not everyone with throat reflux will experience all of these symptoms. Some individuals may only have a few symptoms, while others may have more severe and persistent symptoms. Additionally, the severity of symptoms can vary over time, with some individuals experiencing periods of remission and others having chronic symptoms.

If you suspect you may have throat reflux, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis. They may perform a physical examination, review your medical history, and order additional tests, such as a pH monitoring test or an endoscopy, to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other conditions.

Treatment for throat reflux typically involves lifestyle modifications and medications. Lifestyle changes may include avoiding trigger foods, losing weight if necessary, quitting smoking, elevating the head of the bed, and eating smaller, more frequent meals. Medications such as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) or H2 blockers may also be prescribed to reduce stomach acid production and alleviate symptoms.

In conclusion, throat reflux is a condition where stomach acid and digestive enzymes flow back up into the throat and larynx. The symptoms can vary but commonly include hoarseness, chronic cough, sore throat, difficulty swallowing, excessive throat clearing, postnasal drip, chronic sinusitis, asthma-like symptoms, globus sensation, and dental problems. If you suspect you have throat reflux, it is important to seek medical advice for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

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