March 8, 2011

Laryngospasm – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Posted in Category : Natural Cures

Laryngospasm is a condition that is caused by a spasm of the larynx which suddenly contracts and blocks the flow of air into the lungs. People with this condition may suddenly wake up in the middle of the night with a burning sensation in their throats or may be unable to either speak or breathe momentarily. The experience can be quite frightening but usually subsides quickly.

The main cause of laryngospasm is a condition known as laryngo-pharyngeal reflux disease (LPR) which is closely related to gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD occurs when stomach acids flow backward into the esophagus due to a malfunctioning esophageal valve. When the acid reflux affects the voice box comprising of the larynx and pharynx, it is termed as LPR.

During the reflux action, the stomach acids reaching the larynx may cause irritation and a momentary spasm of the larynx, which convulses and shuts off air to the lungs. Regular exposure to the stomach acids can result in damage to the delicate tissues of the larynx. Severe cases of LPR may also develop non-cancerous lesions on their vocal cords known as granulomas.

People with either GERD or LPR who also suffer from upper respiratory tract infections, colds and coughs are at additional risk of developing laryngospasms as the process of coughing can push additional stomach acids up to the larynx.

Laryngospasm may also be caused as a side effect of anesthesia during surgery. The anesthesia can irritate the vocal cords and may even prove to be fatal. This form of laryngospasm is more common in the case of children.

The most common symptom of laryngospasm is an inability to speak or breathe during an attack. Laryngospasms occurring during the night are quite common, probably brought on by the fact that the person is sleeping in a horizontal position, making it easier for the gastric reflux action to occur. When this happens, the person usually wakes with a start with the feeling that he or she us about to suffocate. This feeling of suffocation may also be accompanied by a burning sensation in the throat or a sour and bitter taste. This condition is known as sleep-related laryngospasm and may actually cause a person to lose consciousness during an attack. In fact, experts suspect that laryngospasms may be one of the main causes of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Other symptoms of GERT that may accompany spasms of the larynx include:

  • Chest pain
  • Coughing
  • Heartburn
  • Burning sensation in the throat and nasal passages
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • A hoarse voice
  • Sore throat
  • Nausea

The treatment for laryngospasms will involve treatment for GERT or LPR. Medications will lessen the secretion of gastric acids, ensuring that fluids that do back up into the esophagus and larynx are not too acidic. Other medications that may be prescribed are known as prokinetic agents.

These help to strengthen the esophageal valve and empty the stomach more rapidly, thereby lowering the incidence of gastric reflux.

In cases that do not respond to these drugs, a surgical procedure known as fundoplication may be required.

There are certain home remedies that will help to lessen or even prevent the incidence of laryngospasms. These include:

  • Quit smoking and avoid drinking alcohol and coffee as these cause acid reflux
  • Eat smaller portions four to five times a day
  • Avoid foods that are known to cause acidity such as fatty, fried and spicy foods
  • Do not eat any food for at least two hours before bed time
  • Keep your head raised while sleeping
  • Chew over-the-counter antacids whenever you suffer from acidity