If you have a persistently sore or uncomfortable throat, have to clear your throat frequently, cough and suffer from hoarseness, you might be suffering from this serious and little-recognized throat problem.
If your doctor has ruled out a respiratory problem or any causes, you might be suffering from a backflow of gastric acid.
GASTRIC ACID BACK FLOW OR GASTRIC REFLUX
Gastric reflux is a backflow of acid into the oesophagus. Food goes down your oesophagus into your stomach once you have swallowed it. Your stomach is filled with gastric acids which help to break down food. A valve between the stomach and the oesophagus usually prevents backflow but the valve may be weak or there may be pressure forcing the gastric acid upwards.
Symptoms include frequent throat clearing, hoarseness especially at the end of the day, coughing, a tight or sore larynx and a sore throat.
A delay in treatment may cause problems to the vocal cords and larynx. Patients may also suffer from difficulties in swallowing and asthma. Gastric acid may even reach other organs such as the ears and nose, causing a swelling of the middle ear.
Long-term sufferers have been known to lose their voice every evening.
The condition is little recognized so some people suffer from years without a proper diagnosis and become anxious, even depressed about their condition.
CAUSES AND PREVENTION
To prevent gastric acid backflow, people should avoid smoking and alcohol. Try to avoid eating then going straight to bed afterwards. Do not overeat, cut down on acidic food (such as tomatoes, coke, orange juice) and chew your food thoroughly before swallowing. Avoid stress, especially around mealtimes. You should also avoid over-stretching the voice by speaking for too long without a break. Drink water frequently to keep the throat hydrated.
Medical researchers have also found a link between sleep apnea and stomach acid backflow. Some drugs may also cause gastric reflux as a side effect. A hiatus hernia may cause gastric reflux too.
Medication such as rabeprazole may suppress the secretion of gastric acid. If vocal chords have been damaged, medical treatment and speech therapy might be required.
If you suffer from acid reflux caused by sleep apnea, you may try out an acid reflux pillow. This looks like a big foam triangular wedge. The pillow makes you sleep at more of a raised angle: so gravity helps to keep the gastric acids in your stomach.
Make sure you do not ignore a persistent cough and/or sore throat as it could lead to serious complications.