Otolaryngological perspective on patients with throat symptoms and laryngeal irritation.
The diagnosis of laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR) is increasingly common in otolaryngology practice. Patients with nonspecific throat and voice symptoms, such as throat clearing, hoarseness, cough, sore throat, and globus, are frequently treated empirically with antireflux medication by otolaryngologists and primary care physicians. Physical findings such as laryngeal erythema, edema, and posterior laryngeal mucosal thickening are also frequently attributed to LPR. The literature has been inconsistent, with few prospective, randomized trials showing efficacy for this clinical practice. Because of the lack of specific signs and symptoms of LPR, clinicians should be aware of other potential causes for these clinical presentations. Recently published studies describe the association between allergy or asthma and many of the same symptoms attributed to reflux disease. Muscle tension dysphonia can also present with hoarseness and symptoms of throat irritation. Although LPR can cause the symptoms and signs described previously, it should not be the only diagnosis considered by the evaluating physician. Failure to consider other possible causes may result in unnecessary treatment and potential delay in diagnosis. This article discusses this topic, citing some of the pertinent literature published over the past 2 years.
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