Commonly Confused Conditions

  • Elisabeth H. Ference
  • Vicki Henderson
  • Marilene B. WangEmail author


There are a large number of common conditions which can be confused with laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR). Clouding the diagnosis, however, is the fact that LPR can also cause or exacerbate a large number of conditions. For example, postnasal drip due to rhinitis or sinusitis can be confused with LPR; however, concomitant LPR can worsen chronic sinusitis. Hoarseness can be caused by a multitude of laryngeal disorders including functional voice disorders, chronic laryngitis, habitual throat clearing, and excessive voice use; but LPR can also worsen laryngitis and muscle tension dysphonia. Swallowing disorders can also produce symptoms of globus (foreign body) sensation and chronic throat clearing, and many causes of dysphagia are worsened by irritation from LPR. Neoplasms impacting the aerodigestive tract, such as pharyngeal, laryngeal, esophageal, or thyroid neoplasms, can lead to stenosis or compression that can be misdiagnosed as LPR, but LPR may be a factor in the development of laryngeal carcinoma. Finally, environmental irritants such as tobacco, alcohol, and occupational or toxic exposures also cause inflammation, mimicking symptoms caused by exposure to gastric contents. Yet, tobacco and alcohol can also exacerbate or cause LPR. In cases of chronic rhinosinusitis, laryngitis, or dysphagia unresponsive to medical or surgical management, patients should also be tested for coexistent LPR or empirically treated because response to any therapy will be suboptimal if LPR is not also adequately addressed.


Laryngopharyngeal reflux Postnasal drip Chronic sinusitis Chronic laryngitis Dysphagia Laryngeal carcinoma Tobacco Alcohol 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elisabeth H. Ference
    • 1
    • 2
  • Vicki Henderson
    • 3
  • Marilene B. Wang
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.Rick and Tina Caruso Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck SurgeryKeck School of Medicine of University of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck SurgeryChildren’s Hospital Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA
  3. 3.Department of Speech PathologySt. Jude HospitalFullertonUSA
  4. 4.Department of Head and Neck SurgeryDavid Geffen School of Medicine of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)Los AngelesUSA

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