It may not be an obvious connection right away, but the larynx or voice box is located just behind the Adam’s apple at the front of the neck, right next to the opening of the esophagus. Over time, repeated acid reflux can irritate the larynx and prompt chronic laryngitis, a condition marked by hoarseness and difficulty talking. While most cases of laryngitis only last a day or so, chronic laryngitis could leave you miming around your home and office for a few weeks.
Have you ever taken a gulp of water when you were about to speak or laugh and ended up with water going down the wrong tube? That is because the esophagus is located right next to the trachea, or windpipe. When you breathe or speak, the air travels through the trachea. When you eat or drink, the food travels through the esophagus. When acid refluxes out of your stomach and into your mouth, the trachea may be fair game for inflammation and irritation—just as if your water went “down the wrong tube.”
While laryngitis is a common condition, not everyone experiences it due to GERD. Other reasons you may develop laryngitis include yelling, smoking and breathing in toxic chemicals, dust or fumes. If you develop laryngitis with GERD, your physician will likely discuss the other potential causes as well to ensure that you are indeed experiencing reflux laryngitis.
In order to get your voice back, you need to begin treating the cause of the larynx irritation—the reflux. This may be done through the use of over-the-counter or prescription medications. Other lifestyle changes may also be recommended, including avoiding large meals, cutting out spicy and fried foods and losing weight. In serious cases GERD surgery may be indicated.
If you find yourself without a voice, then make sure to drink plenty of fluids. As tempting as it may be to whisper your way through your lost voice, you need to stay quiet and rest your larynx. Most of all, avoid foods that trigger more reflux. The goal is to reduce the inflammation in the larynx, and this won’t happen if it isn’t able to heal.
Chronic laryngitis may take some time to heal, but rest assured that your voice will come back. If you are coping with regular reflux and haven’t lost your voice yet, don’t take any risks. Laryngitis is more frustrating than it is painful, but your GERD surgeon Dr. Ihde can offer you some valuable tips to reduce your heartburn and reflux and prevent the problem from occurring.