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Conditions We Treat: Chronic Cough and LPR
Chronic cough can result from irritation or trauma to the voice box that triggers a hypersensitive cough response. . A cough is considered chronic when it lasts for eight weeks or longer. It's important to evaluate and manage all possible causes of persistent coughing.
Chronic cough is often caused by laryngopharyngeal reflux, commonly known as LPR. The problem starts when acid from the stomach irritates the voice box and throat. LPR is similar to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) – when stomach acids affects the esophagus and cause heartburn. When acid from the stomach is expelled into the esophagus and into the throat, it can cause significant discomfort and lead to chronic cough.
Chronic Cough and LPR: What You Need to Know
Causes of chronic cough include
Medication side effects
Lung issues such as asthma or COPD
Environmental allergies causing post-nasal drip
- If these problems have been ruled out, you may have sensorineuropathic cough, which results from abnormal throat and voice box sensations from malfunctioning nerves. Symptoms include chronic cough and chronic throat clearing and can affect the voice.
- Treatment for chronic cough starts with identifying the cause, and managing symptoms through medication and lifestyle or behavioral changes.
Symptoms of laryngopharyngeal reflux include
- A sore, dry, or scratchy throat
- A sensation of mucus or phlegm in throat
- Frequent throat clearing and
- Dry chronic cough and a hoarse voice (especially in the morning)
- While GERD and LPR are both related to excess stomach acid in the throat, a person can have one problem or the other, or both simultaneously.
Treatment for LPR may include limiting acidic foods, caffeine, alcohol and carbonated beverages. Your doctor may also recommend limiting food before bedtime.
Learn more about chronic cough in our Health Library.
Learn more about GERD in our Health Library.
Find out what you can expect during your visit at the Johns Hopkins Voice Center.
Why Choose Johns Hopkins for Chronic Cough and LPR?
Comprehensive Diagnosis and Treatment
If your doctor suspects LPR as the reason for your chronic cough, he or she will take a comprehensive patient history and and examine you for signs of reflux such as:
- Redness or swelling in the back of the voice box
- Vocal cord pseudo-sulcus (a certain pattern of swelling on the vocal cords)
- Thick mucus secretions clinging to the vocal cords
To confirm LPR, the doctor may recommend a pharyngeal pH probe. This involves placement of a thin wire which secures behind the ear, enters through the nose, and sits in the back of the throat. The probe measures the acid level in the throat over a 24-hour period and can confirm the presence of abnormal acid levels.
Rely on the expertise of our physicians to treat chronic cough.
Our Patient Education
Watch our Voice Center FAQ video.
Dr. Lee Akst, Director of the Johns Hopkins Voice Center, answers some of the most frequently asked questions.