LPR vs. GERD: What’s the Difference?

woman having stomachache or heartburn after eating burger, hand holding her abdominal

Do you suffer from heartburn or acid reflux? What about chronic cough or sore throat? If so, you may be affected by GERD or LPR. Although these two conditions are related to acid reflux, they have a few key differences. Keep reading to learn more about the differences between GERD and LPR.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is a common digestive disorder experienced by people around the world. This condition occurs when stomach acid or bile flows back up into the esophagus, causing a burning sensation in the chest and throat, often known as heartburn.

Symptoms of GERD can be uncomfortable and may include:

  • heartburn (burning in the chest)
  • burning feeling in the throat
  • bad taste in the back of the mouth
  • chest pain when lying down or bending over
  • difficulty swallowing

While these symptoms can occur from time to time, they may be indicative of GERD if they happen more than twice a week, are getting worse, interfere with your day or cause you to wake at night, or if you have had them on and off for years.

Laryngopharyngeal Reflux (LPR):

Laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR), also sometimes known as silent reflux,  is a form of acid reflux in the upper throat. This digestive disorder occurs when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus and upper throat causing irritation. Unlike GERD, LPR often does not cause heartburn or other typical symptoms of acid reflux. Instead, people with LPR may experience:

  • Chronic cough
  • Hoarseness
  • Throat clearing
  • Postnasal drip
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Sore throat
  • Feeling of a lump in the throat

Common causes of this condition include a dysfunctional lower esophageal sphincter, hiatal hernia, smoking, alcohol consumption and hormonal changes during pregnancy or menopause.

Key differences between LPR and GERD

Laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR) and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) are both medical conditions caused by the contents of the stomach coming back into the esophagus. Although both involve acid reflux, there are several key differences in symptoms and treatments between LPR and GERD.

The main difference between LPR and GERD is the location of the reflux. LPR involves the throat and voice box, while GERD involves the esophagus and digestive system. In addition, the symptoms of LPR and GERD can be quite different, with LPR causing symptoms such as chronic cough and hoarseness, and GERD causing symptoms such as heartburn and regurgitation.

Diagnosing LPR and GERD can also be different. While both conditions may involve physical exams and tests such as endoscopy, LPR may require specialized evaluation of the throat and voice box.

Here is a table that shows the similarities and differences between LPR and GERD:

DefinitionReflux of stomach contentsReflux of stomach contents into esophagus
Location of refluxThroat and voice boxEsophagus and digestive system
Typical symptomsChronic cough, hoarsenessHeartburn, regurgitation, chest pain
DiagnosisPhysical exam, laryngoscopyEvaluation of symptoms, endoscopy, pH monitoring
CausesMalfunctioning sphincter, obesity, pregnancy, smoking, certain medicationsWeak/dysfunctional lower esophageal sphincter, obesity, pregnancy, smoking, certain medications
TreatmentLifestyle changes, medicationsLifestyle changes, medications

Overall, LPR and GERD have some similarities in terms of causes and treatment, but differ in the location of reflux and the symptoms experienced. It is important to seek medical evaluation from a healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.

Similarities between LPR and GERD

Despite the differences between LPR and GERD, there are also many similarities. Both conditions can be caused by factors such as diet, obesity, pregnancy, smoking, and certain medications. Treatment for both LPR and GERD may involve weight loss, medications to reduce acid production, and avoiding trigger foods, such as caffeine, fatty meats, spicy dishes, and acidic fruits and vegetables like tomatoes.

Why to See an ENT for LPR and GERD

If you suspect that you have LPR or GERD, it is important to see an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor for evaluation and diagnosis. ENT doctors are trained to recognize and treat conditions that affect the throat and voice box, and they have specialized equipment that can be used to evaluate the area. In addition, ENT doctors are often able to provide more personalized treatment plans for LPR and GERD that take into account the specific needs and symptoms of each individual patient. They are also able to treat inflammation in the throat, esophagus, and larynx, as well as other complications caused by reflux such as sinus and ear infections.

In Conclusion

LPR and GERD are both serious medical conditions that can cause a variety of uncomfortable symptoms. While there are some key differences between the two conditions, they also have several similarities. If you think you may be suffering from either condition, it is important to see an ENT as soon as possible for an accurate diagnosis and to begin treatment. By seeking care from an ENT doctor, you can ensure that you receive an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment for your condition.

Lee A. Kleiman a doctor at Anne Arundel ENT

Dr. Lee A. Kleiman is a double board certified ENT & plastic surgeon at Anne Arundel ENT in Annapolis, Maryland known for his superior clinical outcomes in all Surgical and Non-Surgical ENT, specializing in Sinus Care, Voice and Swallowing, Rhinoplasty and Revision Rhinoplasty, and Facelifts and Non-surgical Aesthetic. He also continues to attend conferences internationally and nationally to keep abreast of the latest treatments and technology.