My Acid Reflux Story

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Just before I was due to go on a holiday, I came down with a severe upper respiratory tract infection (sore throat, cough, fever). The infection lasted between 7 and 10 days. While I was away, I did the typical thing most people do- indulged in lots of food, drank alcohol more frequently than I did at home etc. Basically, I relaxed and enjoyed myself. I was a bit bothered by the fact that during the 2 weeks that I was away, my irritated and persistent dry cough didn’t seem to improve or go away. I returned home and the cough continued. There was no particular pattern to the cough either- I coughing inconsistently and regularly throughout the day and also when I lay down in bed at night to go to sleep. Not only that, but I was beginning to clear my throat regularly.

This continued for another 5 to 6 weeks, at which time I decided to see an ENT that I work with to see what was going on. I was expecting him to take a look in my throat and tell me that I had a post-nasal drip causing my cough and throat clearing. Instead, he diagnosed me with Laryngopharyngeal Reflux (LPR). LPR is when acid and digestive enzymes from the stomach go back up the food pipe (oesophagus) all the way to the voice box (larynx). The lining of the voice box is very sensitive to the acid from the stomach and reacts. When the ENT did his examination (he inserted a rigid endoscope, which is a small camera that’s attached to a straight scope, into my mouth to the back of my throat to take a look at my voice box), he saw that my vocal folds were inflamed and that my muscles were tightening in a pattern that is associated with LPR. When he started asking further questions, I realised that the quality of my voice had been variable at the end of the day (but I was working a lot and using my voice throughout the day- so didn’t pay much attention to it) and that I’d been waking up with a sore throat. All are symptoms and signs of LPR. Interestingly, I did not experience any heartburn! Only approximately 50% of people with LPR experience heartburn (which is associated with GORD- gastro-oesophageal reflux disease).The ENT explained to me that my initial infection had started the cough. The cough started the LPR which continued the cough and so on and so on. The spicy food and alcohol I consumed while on holiday also exacerbated it. He immediately put me on medication to treat the LPR and I was already aware of the diet and lifestyle changes I had to make to improve it. I also commenced myself on a voice therapy regime to get my voice back to normal. I was quite busy with work at that time and was inconsistent with taking my medication every day. Not surprisingly, my symptoms didn’t improve. After I had been taking the medication daily for 8 to 10 weeks (as well as implementing the diet, lifestyle changes and the voice therapy), my cough and throat clearing had gone and my voice was back to 100%. At that point I could step down the medication and then slowly eliminated it all together.

In summary, if you have any or all of the following symptoms that don’t resolve in a timely manner-these include persistent cough (without an infection), throat clearing, sore/dry throat, bad taste in the mouth on waking, a feeling of a ‘lump’ in the throat, sudden difficulty in swallowing, changes in the voice- you may have LPR. Suggest it to your GP, and if they agree that it could be the cause of your symptoms, then get a referral to an ENT to get it investigated further. Usual treatment of LPR is a course of medication that’s prescribed by the ENT, as well as seeing a Speech Pathologist for diet and lifestyle change recommendations and voice therapy. Severe cases may require surgery, but that is the exception rather than the rule. If anyone has any questions or would like further information on LPR, please don’t hesitate to contact either myself (Nikki Martin- Speech Pathologist) or Dr Novakovic (ENT) at Sydney Voice and Swallowing (see ‘Contact Us’).

1 Comment

  1. Andria

    This sounds exactly like what I’ve got! I’ve been to the doctor twice within the last 6 months, but I think I’ve been misdiagnosed both those times with having ‘sinusitis’… Looks like I’ll be going to a different doctor this time 🙁

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