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Acid reflux, GERD and LPR: Know the difference

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Throat pain

Is that heartburn or is it something else?

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) Awareness Week is November 22-28, 2020, a good time to learn the difference.

People who have GERD have chronic acid reflux. That occurs when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus. Symptoms include heartburn and acid indigestion and perhaps nausea, vomiting, excessive belching and abdominal pain.

It might be GERD if:

  • You have heartburn twice or more a week
  • It gets worse
  • It happens at night and wakes you
  • You’ve had it on and off for years
  • You have difficulty or pain when swallowing
  • Discomfort or pain interferes with daily activities

Treatment for GERD can begin with medication. If that proves ineffective, there are surgical options. People who choose surgery usually have symptoms at least three times a week and have had some non-surgical treatment.

If left untreated, GERD can cause complications such as esophagitis, esophageal ulcers, bleeding and scarring of the esophagus. Those conditions increase the risk for developing esophageal cancer.

Another form of acid reflux is laryngopharyngeal reflux, or LPR, in which stomach acid backs up into the throat.

LPR typically isn’t easily diagnosed. Its symptoms – sore throat, chronic cough, sinusitis and throat clearing, among others – don’t immediately lend themselves to an acid reflux diagnosis. Those symptoms can be mistaken for other conditions such as asthma, allergies, laryngitis or upper-respiratory infection.

Doctors at Aurora BayCare Medical Center have a new diagnostic tool – the Restech pH System – to better detect LPR by determining whether a patient has acid backing up into the throat.

A small, soft probe tube is placed in the patient’s nose until its tip is positioned in the back of the throat. It doesn’t interfere with talking, eating or drinking. In most cases, the probe is well tolerated by patients.

The probe is connected to a recording device, tracking the frequency and severity of reflux episodes during a 24-hour period. It sends those measurements wirelessly to the recording device. The doctor evaluates the data and can make an accurate diagnosis.

“The data from the Restech system will help us deliver enhanced, personalized treatment plans for our patients with LPR symptoms.” says Dr. Daniel T. McKenna, a gastrointestinal surgeon with Aurora BayCare General & Vascular Surgery.

Treatment for LPR may include medication and limiting acidic foods, caffeine, alcohol and carbonated beverages. People with LPR also may be urged to avoid late-night eating.

Published: Tuesday, November 17, 2020
Author: Jeff Ash