Silent Reflux

Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment for Laryngopharyngeal Reflux (LPR)

Man holding chest due to silent reflux

What Is Laryngopharyngeal Reflux (Silent Reflux) and How Is It Different from GERD?

Laryngopharyngeal Reflux (LPR), also known as silent reflux, occurs when food or stomach acids flow back up into the larynx (voice box) or pharynx (throat). This backflow, or reflux, can occur at anytime, day or night, whether a person has eaten or not. Silent reflux can happen to anyone but seems more common in older people, people who wear tight clothing, are overweight, or are stressed. The difference between laryngopharyngeal reflux and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux) is that with LPR, the reflux flows past the esophagus into the throat while GERD reflux flows back into the esophagus alone.

The Symptoms of Silent Reflux

Silent reflux symptoms will vary depending upon the individual. Indications of LPR include hoarseness, chronic cough or clearing of the throat, a sore throat, feeling of a lump in the throat, excessive throat mucus, difficulty swallowing, or heartburn. If you suffer from any of these symptoms, especially if you smoke, you should talk to your ENT doctor. If your symptoms indicate the possibility of silent reflux, a fiberoptic office examination of the throat will most likely take place to observe the voice box. If this area appears swollen and/or red, it’s possible that you, indeed, have silent reflux. At that point, further tests may be recommended or treatment initiated.

Testing for silent reflux can include a barium test where barium coats the esophagus, stomach and intestine so that, through an X-ray, food can be tracked. An endoscope can also be used to look at the inside esophagus and stomach. There’s also an esophageal pH test which indicates acidity levels in the esophagus.

Silent Reflux Treatment

If the larynx or pharynx exhibit signs of redness or are inflamed, our silent reflux doctors will individually tailor treatment to each patient. Prescribed therapy may include:

  • Changing daily habits and diet to reduce reflux,i.e., eat less and more infrequently, eat a low fat, low fat, no spice diet, lose weight, avoid alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco
  • Prescribed or OTC medications to reduce stomach acid, i.e., antacids, stomach acid reducers, proton pump inhibitors
  • Surgery to prevent reflux

The good news is that patients can decrease their chances of getting silent reflux by following a healthy diet and lifestyle. Yes, you may have to forego chocolate, coffee, and spicy takeout now and again, but it will be worth it in the long run.

If Silent Reflux Is Not Treated, It Can Cause:

  • Hoarseness and sore throat
  • Sore throat
  • Chronic cough
  • Chronic throat clearing
  • A Lump in the Throat
  • Excessive Throat Mucus
  • Difficulty Swallowing
  • Vocal cord ulcers

Click here to download our LPR brochure PDF. (This form requires Acrobat Reader. If you do not have Acrobat Reader, please click here for a free download from Or for more information on LPR, please contact our office.

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