Reflux laryngitis is a voice disorder that results from irritation and swelling of the vocal folds due to the backflow of stomach contents and acid into throat. This backflow/regurgitation is often referred to as laryngopharyngeal reflux disease (LPRD). Stomach contents contain acid and other compounds that aid in digestion of food in the stomach, but these compounds can cause irritation if they reach the larynx. LPRD can be acidic or non-acidic, but both types can cause symptoms. 

Laryngopharyngeal Reflux Disease Symptoms

Swelling and irritation of the larynx caused by LPRD is associated with a number of common complaints such as hoarseness, feeling of a lump in the throat, postnasal drip sensation, chronic throat clearing, noisy breathing, chronic coughing, or sudden difficulty breathing (laryngospasm, paradoxical vocal fold motion disorder). These patients may or may not experience traditional “heartburn symptoms” or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Laryngopharyngeal Reflux Disease Diagnosis

Your laryngologist will take a complete laryngological history to determine if LPRD may be in the differential diagnosis of what you are experiencing. Examination of the throat and voice box for visible changes (including edema, ulcers, or granulomas) can be done in the outpatient visit. Examination may be done by video laryngostroboscopy in which a small flexible scope is passed through nose to the back of the throat to examine the larynx in detail. 

Several tests are used to confirm the diagnosis of reflux as the cause of voice disorder or throat complaint: 24-hour pH monitoring, barium esophagram, transnasal Esophagoscopy, and esophageal manometry

Laryngopharyngeal Reflux Disease Treatment

There are two main methods of treating LPRD which include decreasing the production and secretion of stomach acid with medicine and improving the barrier function of the lower esophageal sphincter through surgery. 

A medication trial (empiric therapy) involves a three to six-month period of treatment on anti-reflux medications and anti-reflux precautions. If the symptoms decrease or go away with treatment, the identification of LPRD may become clearer.