Reflux Laryngitis - Experience

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Why does reflux laryngitis occur?

Reflux is caused by weakness in the muscle at the junction of the esophagus with the stomach. Normally, this muscular valve, or sphincter, functions to keep food and stomach acid from moving upward from the stomach to the esophagus and larynx. This valve opens to allow food into the stomach and closes to keep the stomach's contents from coming back up. The backward movement of stomach contents (gastric contents) up into the esophagus is called gastroesophageal reflux.

Additionally, any increase in abdominal pressure (such as obesity or tight clothing), which can push acid back from the stomach up the esophagus, or a  patient with a hiatal hernia, will have an increased risk for reflux. When it causes symptoms, it is referred to as gastroesophageal reflux disease (or GERD). When the acid backs up into the voice box (larynx), the condition is referred to as reflux laryngitis.

Stomach acid can cause irritation of the lining of the esophagus, larynx, and throat. This can lead to:

  • erosion of the lining of the esophagus (erosive esophagitis),
  • narrowing of the esophagus (stricture),
  • chronic hoarseness,
  • chronic throat clearing,
  • difficulty swallowing,
  • foreign body sensation in the throat,
  • asthma or cough,
  • spasms of the vocal cords,
  • sinusitis, and
  • growths on the vocal cords (granulomas).

Rarely, reflux can lead to cancers of the esophagus or larynx.

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