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GERD Awareness Week

It's that time of year! Thanksgiving is upon us and many (me included) have intentions of getting stuffed and slipping into a tryptophan induced coma after eating some turkey! Well it is also Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) awareness week. Really? On Thanksgiving day we tend to toss out some good anti-reflux practices after we give thanks and break bread with our loved ones. We eat one large meal (some folks eat 2-3 you know who you are) that then makes us sleepy breaking at least two cardinal rules for reflux - light meals are recommended along with avoidance of lying flat for at least 4 hours after meals.

As ENT physicians we tend to see patients for the reflux impact on the throat. Laryngopharyngeal Reflux, or LPR for short, tends to occur when stomach contents, acid in particular, regurgitates up from the stomach into the esophagus and way up into the back of the throat. This presence of acidic material which your stomach is totally cool with, is not cool-literally and figuratively, when it gets into your throat. Some patients will feel the burn, but a majority of patients do not. The surrounding tissues in the throat will get inflamed and swollen leading to a common sensation that there is something in the throat which is what we refer to as a globus sensation. Most people reflexively will start performing frequent throat clearing activities to try to resolve the ‘lump'. The stomach contents can also irritate the larynx (voice box) and lead to hoarseness, coughing and sometimes the sensation that the throat is closing. This sensation can be particularly scary if it happens suddenly.

LPR is typically diagnosed based on symptoms as well as signs found on laryngoscopy. An ENT physician will pass a flexible scope (about 4 mm in diameter) through the nose while in the office looking for swelling and redness that would account for the symptoms. Treatment typically consists of proton pump inhibitors (PPI's) as well as modifications in diet and lifestyle. The treatments can take a few months to see improvement.

If you are a smoker and are having throat pains, ear pains, weight loss and difficulties swallowing, these issues may be due to other causes and should be evaluated by an ENT physician.

Luna D. Bailey, MD