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GERD vs. LPR: How Your Royal Oak ENT Doctor Can Help You Overcome Acid Reflux

Have you ever thought about what happens to your food once you swallow it? 

It’s okay, Royal Oak – most people don’t, but I can break it down for you. 

Basically, the food travels down your esophagus and enters the stomach, where it gets broken down by stomach acid and digestive enzymes before getting sent down the small intestine in small chunks.

And then, well, you know the rest

What’s important is that your food (as well as all the enzymes and acids it comes in contact with) goes one way and one way only – down. Once those contents start traveling upward, problems can arise. 

Acid Reflux: Stop, You’re Going the Wrong Way!

Acid reflux occurs when the gastric acid in your stomach travels up through the esophagus – where it doesn’t belong. It’s kind of like driving down a one-way street, but you’re going the wrong way. 

If only the esophagus had a front gate – or some kind of a security checkpoint…

Well, it does – in fact, it has two, and they’re called sphincters:

  • The upper esophageal sphincter (UES) is located at the top of your esophagus and connects your esophagus to your pharynx (throat).   
  • The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is located at the bottom of your esophagus and connects your esophagus to your stomach. 

When you swallow, the UES and LES open and close as needed – allowing certain things to enter, while other things are kept out. Unfortunately, like the front gate to your community, acid always finds a way out.

If this happens to you, then you might be diagnosed with GERD or LPR – the two primary types of acid reflux. Between 20% and 30% of all Americans are living with one or the other (if not both) – accounting for roughly 1 in 4 people in the US. Don’t worry – we’re going to teach you everything you need to know!

GERD: Breaking Through the Lower Sphincter

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is what most people think of when they hear the term ‘acid reflux.’ It occurs when gastric acid travels up through the lower esophageal sphincter from the stomach.

GERD affects more than 20% of people in the United States. 

Here are some of the most common symptoms of GERD:

  • Heartburn (burning sensation in chest or throat)
  • Regurgitating stomach contents into the throat
  • Acidic or unpleasant taste in the mouth
  • Having difficulty swallowing
  • Nausea or upset stomach
  • Pain in the chest while laying down

You should schedule an appointment with your Royal Oak ENT doctor if your symptoms worsen over time, occur several times per week, wake you up at night, cause any level of pain or discomfort, or come and go frequently. Failing to treat GERD can result in chronic damage or scarring in the esophagus.  

LPR: Breaking Through the Upper Sphincter

Laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR) occurs when esophageal contents (acid, enzymes) travel up the esophagus and into the pharynx (throat) and larynx (voice box) through the lower esophageal sphincter. 

LPR affects more than 10% of people in the United States.

Here are some of the most common symptoms of LPR

  • Chronic hoarseness in the throat
  • Chronic coughing
  • Frequently clearing your throat
  • Postnasal drip or excessive mucus
  • The sensation of a lump in your throat
  • Persistent sore throat
  • Red, swollen, or irritated voice box

LPR can be hard to diagnose because a lot of people confuse the symptoms for a respiratory issue – when it’s actually an esophageal problem. Some experts like to call it the ‘silent’ acid reflux because it doesn’t mimic the typical symptoms associated with acid reflux (such as heartburn and regurgitation). 

Diagnosis & Treatment: How to Tame Acid Reflux for Good

Acid reflux can usually be diagnosed with a complete medical history and physical examination of the esophagus. They’ll be on the lookout for any signs of swelling, redness, irritation, and/or tissue damage. 

To confirm a diagnosis, your doctor might order one of the following tests: 

  • An endoscopy – where a camera is sent down your nose, throat, or esophagus. 
  • An ambulatory acid (pH) probe test – where a monitor is placed in the esophagus. 
  • An x-ray – where you drink a chalky liquid to see a silhouette of your esophagus.
  • A biopsy – where a small piece of esophageal tissue is removed for further analysis.

Once diagnosed, your Royal Oak ENT doctor can start formulating a treatment plan – personalized to meet your specific needs. Most treatment plans involve a combination of the following: 

Lifestyle changes. Most of the lifestyle changes will be made to your eating habits (what you eat, when you eat it). Your doctor will also suggest exercising more and avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco.

Medication. The most common types of medications used for acid reflux include antacids (temporary relief), H2 receptor blockers (reduce acid production), and proton pump inhibitors (similar to H2). 

Surgery. Most people will only go down this route when lifestyle changes and medication aren’t working, but your ENT doctor will help you understand your various options – and don’t be afraid to ask questions!

Lifestyle changes are always the first step in the treatment process – and could be the only treatment needed for some people. Most people will supplement their lifestyle changes with over-the-counter or prescription medication – but follow the doctor’s orders for that. Surgery is often viewed as a last resort. 

The Rontal Clinic: Your One-Way Ticket to Digestive Freedom 

Are you suffering from frequent heartburn? Do you have an acidic taste in your mouth, even though you didn’t eat or drink something acidic? Are you frequently having to clear your throat to speak properly? 

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of those questions, then you might be living with acid reflux. 

Don’t worry – we can help!

Here at The Rontal Clinic, we have several decades of experience serving the Royal Oak, MI community – and we would be honored to extend our services to you and your family. You can call or text us at (248) 737-4030, or schedule an appointment by clicking here – we can’t wait to relieve you of your symptoms!