Acid reflux occurs when acidic stomach contents flow back into the esophagus, the swallowing tube that leads from the back of the throat to the stomach.
When acid repeatedly “refluxes” from the stomach into the esophagus alone, it is known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). However, if the stomach acid travels up the esophagus and spills into the throat or voice box (called the pharynx/larynx), it is known as laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR).
While GERD and LPR can occur together, people sometimes have symptoms from GERD or LPR alone. Having symptoms twice a week or more means that GERD or LPR may be a problem that could be helped by seeing a doctor.
What Are the Symptoms of GERD and LPR?
Many patients with LPR do not experience classic symptoms of heartburn related to GERD. And sometimes, adult patients may experience symptoms related to either GERD or LPR like:
- Regurgitation (a surge or rush back) of stomach contents
- Frequent throat clearing or coughing
- Excess mucus
- A bitter taste
- A sensation of burning or throat soreness
- Something “stuck” or a “lump” in the back of the throat
- Hoarseness or change in voice
- Difficulty swallowing
- Drainage down the back of the nose (post-nasal drip)
- Choking episodes (can sometimes awaken from sleep)
- Difficulty breathing, if the voice box is affected
Signs in infants and children are different from adults and may include:
- Breathing problems such as a cough, hoarseness, noisy breathing, or asthma
- Pauses in breathing (apnea) or snoring when sleeping
- Feeding difficulty (spitting up)
- Turning blue (cyanosis)
- Apparent life-threatening event where there is arching of the back while in distress
- Trouble gaining weight or growing