LPR is often a chronic problem that many people suffer with, but sudden acute anxiety or stress can also fire up the stomach acid and cause LPR.
LPR stands for laryngopharyngeal reflux disease. It’s also known as silent reflux.
Symptoms of LPR (no particular order)
• Hoarse voice throughout speech
• Hoarse voice only at the start of speech after prolonged silence
• Persistent feeling of tickling or itchiness in the back of the throat that causes coughing
• Frequent coughing, may be slightly productive (expelling very tiny clear droplets)
• Sore throat
• Burning throat
• Sensation of lump in throat
• Sensation of difficulty breathing
• Dry mouth
• Reflux episodes into the nose causing burning nasal cavities
Acute stress or anxiety – that which comes on suddenly – can cause a few or all of these LPR symptoms.
“Reflux occurs when stomach juices comes back up to the esophagus in GERD and to the throat in LPR,” says Gene Liu, MD, MMM, and Chief, Division of Otolaryngology, Cedars-Sinai Medical Group.
“LPR, just like classic GERD, can be short-lived or become a lifelong problem,” continues Dr. Liu.
“Anxiety and stress can ultimately lead to many physical symptoms, and the symptoms of reflux have been noted to frequently increase following periods of significant stress.
“Thankfully, in many instances, the reflux symptoms will significantly decrease, or even completely resolve after a period of time.”
I personally know what it’s like to experience LPR out of the blue, in that prior to the onset of symptoms, I had no chronic history of this common condition.
Then suddenly I had a hoarse voice every time I spoke, which cleared up when I cleared my throat. I also had a persistent cough that never subsided unless I was lying in bed.
The triggers were the diagnosis of my parents’ dog, who was a big part of my life, with a brain tumor, and my sudden onset of odd-looking diarrhea, which I thought might be colon cancer.
I scheduled my first colonoscopy and had that to look forward to, while the eight-year-old German shepherd’s condition was worsening.
The dog was put down the day before the colonoscopy, and the cough persisted – right into the colonoscopy procedure room.
At the end of the procedure the doctor told me everything looked normal. The coughing ceased and never returned.
Coincidence? I think not. This fits the bill for a reactive kind of LPR to all my stress and anxiety. The symptoms were minor, nothing compared to what affects many people on a chronic level.
But even short-term LPR in response to sudden stress and turmoil can consist of more troublesome symptoms such as throat pain/burning, a big knot in the throat and a sensation of difficulty breathing.
The cough departed as soon as it had arrived. The cause of the diarrhea turned out to be benign.
But the lesson learned is that laryngopharyngeal reflux disease can most certainly strike out of the blue in response to sudden stressful events, and will likely disappear when there’s a resolution or closure to the turmoil.
Dr. Liu’s clinical areas of focus cover a broad range including surgery of the head and neck, sinuses and thyroid, and disorders of the ears, salivary glands and vocal cords.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.