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What is GERD?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a digestive disorder that is caused by gastric acid flowing from the stomach into the esophagus.
Gastroesophageal refers to the stomach and esophagus, and reflux means to flow back or return. Gastroesophageal reflux (GER) is the return of acidic stomach juices, or food and fluids, back up into the esophagus. Learn more
Voice Problems from Acid Reflux
Acid reflux can cause problems with voice as the backflow of acid and stomach contents can travel all the way up to your throat. The most frequent symptoms associated with this are:
- Hoarseness or other voice changes including laryngitis
- frequent throat clearing
- chronic sore throat or pain when speaking
- chronic dry cough
- excessive mucous production
- globus (a feeling of a “lump” in the throat)
These acid reflux symptoms are due to inflammation from the acid and stomach contents. Understandably the irritation and inflammation to the throat or vocal cords can affect the ability of the voice to function normally.
If you experience any of these symptoms on a regular basis or for more than two weeks at a time you should seek a referral to an ENT (Ear, nose and throat doctor otherwise known as an Otolaryngologist). It is extremely important to have a direct visualization of the throat as any of these symptoms could be due to some very serious other conditions such as cancer. This “laryngoscopy” examination is done by an ENT in the office. A small, flexible scope with a camera is passed through the nose which allows for a view of the throat (pharynx) and voice box (larynx). This only takes a couple of minutes and a nasal decongestant and a topical anesthetic in provided to make it more comfortable. Once examined the physician may prescribe medications, dietary and lifestyle changes to eliminate the damage that can be caused by acid reflux. In many cases you may be referred to a speech language pathologist for voice therapy as voice problems can also be due to misuse of the voice or other conditions that require therapeutic intervention. The Speech Pathology Department at Imperial Point Medical Center specializes in the treatment of voice and swallowing problems.
Swallowing Problems from Acid Reflux
Acid reflux can cause problems with swallowing as the backflow of acid and stomach contents can cause damage to any of the structures used to swallow from mouth to stomach. The most frequent symptoms associated with this are:
- frequent throat clearing or coughing during or after meals
- excessive mucous production especially while eating
- globus (a feeling of a “lump” in the throat) especially when swallowing
- food getting “stuck”
- excessive use of liquids to wash everything down
- odynophagia (painful swallowing)
These acid reflux symptoms are due to inflammation from the acid and stomach contents. Understandably the irritation and inflammation to the throat or esophagus can affect the ability to swallow normally.
If you experience any of these symptoms on a regular basis or for more than two weeks at a time you should speak with your physician. This is very important as any of these symptoms could be due to some very serious other conditions such as cancer or aspiration (food or liquid entering the lungs). There are two examinations that ideally should be recommended. Both exams are done under x-ray. One test will examine the movement of food and liquid from mouth to esophagus. This test is a video swallow function otherwise known as a modified barium swallow. A speech language pathologist will conduct this exam. The second test will examine the movement of liquid through the esophagus into the stomach. This test is an esophagram otherwise known as a regular barium swallow. A radiologist or radiology tech will conduct this exam. Once the cause of the problem with swallowing has been identified you may be referred to either a speech language pathologist for treatment, a gastroenterologist for further evaluation or simply be placed on medication with dietary and lifestyle changes recommended. The Speech Pathology Department at Broward Health Imperial Point specializes in the treatment of voice and swallowing problems.