No one likes dealing with acid reflux. The indigestion, the sour taste in your mouth, and the difficulty swallowing are all uncomfortable effects of reflux. But did you know acid reflux can even cause you to lose your voice? This is called reflux laryngitis. Charlotte Eye Ear Nose & Throat Associates, P.A. Otolaryngologist Darrell Klotz, MD, discusses reflux laryngitis in this month’s blog.

What is reflux laryngitis?

Reflux laryngitis is caused by stomach acid coming up into the esophagus and irritating the larynx. This can cause chronic swelling of the vocal folds and hoarseness.

What is acid reflux?

Acid reflux occurs when stomach contents and acid travel up the esophagus and possibly up into the throat. Common signs of acid reflux include regurgitation, indigestion, a sour or bitter taste in the mouth, nausea, burping, and difficulty swallowing. Less-common or “atypical reflux” signs are those manifesting higher up in the throat such as hoarseness, sore throat, a dry cough, a sensation of a lump in the throat and chronic throat clearing.

What causes acid reflux?

Acid reflux occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) – the muscle that acts as a valve and normally prevents stomach contents from coming back up into the esophagus – loosens or fails, thereby allowing upward travel of stomach contents. It is mainly our eating habits that contribute to the loosening of this valve. Eating certain foods such as spicy, fatty or citrus foods can loosen the sphincter. Overeating is a major cause of acid reflux, as it places pressure on the valve. It can become worse when overeating is combined with alcohol – which relaxes the LES – or lying flat – which allows gravity to assist in the regurgitation of stomach contents. Likewise, eating too close to bedtime allows gravity to work in favor of stomach contents coming back up into your throat, so you should not eat for three hours before going to bed.

Other causes of acid reflux include:

  • Being overweight or pregnant.
  • Smoking.
  • Taking certain medications like aspirin, muscle relaxers, or blood pressure medicines.

A common condition causing reflux is a hiatal hernia. This is when the lower esophageal sphincter relaxes so much that the upper part of the stomach moves out of the abdomen and into the chest. This situation, if severe enough, often warrants surgery to wrap the sphincter tight again. This procedure is called a Nissen fundoplication.

How do you treat reflux laryngitis?

The best way to treat the laryngitis is to treat the reflux. Dietary and lifestyle changes are a good first step. They can:

  • Avoid foods that promote acid reflux like fatty foods, citrus, tomatoes, chocolate, mint, garlic, onions, and spices.
  • Drink water, which keeps reflux symptoms like hoarseness and a sore throat from getting bad.
  • Eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Put blocks under the head of your bed to raise it 4 to 6 inches so you sleep at an angle.
  • Not eat at least 3 hours before lying down.
  • Not wear tight clothes or tight belts.
  • If overweight, take steps to lose weight.

Medications like acid blockers or proton pump inhibitors are useful. Alginate therapy is an alternative to treating with oral medications that reduce acid. Alginate preparations such as Gaviscon, Esophageal Guardian and RefluxGourmet are seaweed products that are taken after each meal and before bed to form a barrier to prevent the stomach contents from coming back up into the esophagus.

Darrell Klotz, MD

Reflux is commonly referred to as a “lifestyle disease”. It is fairly easy to minimize reflux, and by following these few steps you have another way to help keep your voice healthy and strong.

This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your physician.

Darrell Klotz, MD, is an Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor who works in CEENTA’s SouthPark office. He received his bachelor’s degree from Bucknell University. His medical degree, internship, and residency were from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. He received his fellowship in laryngology/voice disorders from the University of Washington School of Medicine.

 


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Comments

November 23, 2020

Hello, I went to a professional gastritis doctor to examine me after a suspected acid reflux, but they gave me no diagnosis and said I was fine. I've been dealing with burping and nausea for years, but it hasn't gotten any worse than that. I've also noticed that when I'm stressed or upset, the feeling comes back, without me eating any foods that are considered harmful. Regardless, I've developed a few techniques to help me deal with it, like lying down, or drinking water, and usually the feeling would disappear overnight. It's a very strange case in my opinion and I'm wondering if there is any people who have perhaps experienced something similar to this and why am I experiencing such a different case then other people? Thank you in advance!
- Maria

November 23, 2020

Hello. Unfortunately, we can't diagnose individual patients without seeing them in person. If you live in the Charlotte, NC, region and would like an appointment at CEENTA, please call 704-295-3000. Thank you.
Reply From: CEENTA

October 02, 2020

I have acid reflux. ENT doc says it has made my vocal cords swollen and inflamed but I don’t have laryngitis, just pain. Any suggestions from someone else suffering would be greatly appreciated.
- Jen

July 30, 2020

Hi, I live in the UK. I have had Chronic Laryngitis for 1 year now and it has improved slightly, but still isn't getting any better. My Doctor has told me that Acid Reflux which is (GERD) is the culprit for it as it has come up and to throat and soaked my voice box on many many occasions which had led to this hoarseness and sometimes voice loss. I have been given another referel to the hospital as my last appointment got cancelled due to the COVID-19. I am currently drinking hot water with honey every morning which is helping and also pour boiling hot water into a big bowl dish and inhaling the steam has also helped a little further. I take gastric capsules to stop the acid travelling up towards my throat and Larynx from my stomach. I know your based in the USA, but any help would or tips would be greatly appreciated.
- Rohit Ghai

July 30, 2020

Good morning. Unfortunately, we would have to be able to see you to offer you any specific medical advice. We recommend following your current regimen until you can see your doctor.
Reply From: CEENTA

May 23, 2020

I did have polyp removed in Jan 19 and now cause I eat last night fatty food cakes and eggs and coffe I woke up with hoarseness and scratchy throat
- Abdul

May 26, 2020

Good morning. We cannot diagnose individual patients without seeing them. If you live in the Charlotte region and would like an in-person appointment, or if you live in the United States and would like to request a virtual visit, please call 704-295-3000.
Reply From: CEENTA

July 17, 2019

I have had hoarse voice for years now. I can feel flem in the Throut I cant speak well and sing. please help me. how to get rid of this.
- Ren

July 17, 2019

Good morning. We cannot diagnose patients over the Internet without seeing them in person, so we recommend you make an appointment with a doctor. If you would like an appointment at CEENTA, please call 704-295-3000.
Reply From: CEENTA

May 25, 2019

I have acid reflux i do endoscopy in january 2019 report was normal and now i feel throat little tightness and i take daily pantaprozle in morning how my throat is better like before
- Navdeep

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