What Excessive Throat Clearing Says about Your Esophagus

10. 18. 2017

Clearing your throat can be an effective way to draw attention for dramatic effect, but excessive throat clearing could indicate a problem with your esophagus.

Laryngopharyngeal Reflux, or silent reflux, is a condition that is similar to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), but it does not share the same symptoms. In both conditions, the lower esophageal sphincter muscles relax and allow gastric acid to escape the stomach. In cases of GERD, the acid lodges in the esophagus can cause chest pain, burning sensations and nausea.

With silent reflux, stomach acid does not remain in the esophagus as it does with GERD. Instead, gastric juices travel all the way up to the throat, larynx (voice box) and nasal passages. Common symptoms of silent reflux include repeated throat clearing, persistent cough, hoarseness, sore throat, difficulty swallowing and sensation of a lump in the throat.

Because the gastric juices often affect the larynx instead of the esophagus, diagnosing silent reflux can be challenging. If you are experiencing symptoms of silent reflux, it is important to make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible because untreated silent reflux can cause long-term complications. When stomach acid pools in the throat and voice box, it can aggravate conditions like asthma or emphysema, making it difficult to breathe. It can also cause permanent damage such as:

  • Throat scarring
  • Increased cancer risk
  • Narrowing of the area below the vocal cords
  • Contact ulcers
  • Recurrent ear infections
  • Buildup of middle ear fluid

Your gastroenterologist can diagnose silent reflux with an endoscopic exam. In this procedure, he or she will use a scope to view your throat and vocal cords and examine them for tissue damage. A second method of diagnosis is pH monitoring. A small catheter will be placed in your nose and throat, and sensors will detect acid over a 24-hour period (Source: Medical News Today).

Make an appointment with your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms of silent reflux. With prompt diagnosis and treatment, you can get relief from that persistent cough and “silence” your reflux.

Related Articles:

Reflux Symptoms to Discuss with Your Doctor
Recognizing Acid Reflux

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