Throat conditions

Your throat, or pharynx, is a tube that carries food to your oesophagus and air to your windpipe and larynx. As an ENT Dr van Lierop has the expertise to manage diseases and conditions of the throat, larynx (voice box), and the oesophagus. From sore throats and loss of voice to salivary gland issues, swallowing disorders and larynx cancer, Dr van Lierop can assist with the diagnosis and treatment of many throat-related issues.

The following throat disorders form part of Dr van Lierop’s speciality:

- Cancer of the throat
The throat begins at the pharynx, behind the nose, and ends at the larynx where the voice box is situated. Throat cancer most often begins in the flat cells that line the inside of your throat. The main risk factors for throat cancer are smoking, heavy drinking and having HPV.

Throat cancer has different names, depending on which part of the throat is affected. Cancer can develop in the following areas of the throat:

  • The oropharynx – this is the middle compartment of the throat
  • The hypopharynx – this is the bottom compartment of the throat
  • The nasopharynx – this is the top compartment
  • The larynx (voice box) – this sits just below the throat
  • The tonsils – these are located on the back of the throat

Symptoms may include a persistent sore throat, a lump in the neck, swallowing problems, voice changes, ear pain and ringing in the ears. If you are experiencing these symptoms, your ENT may do a physical exam and history, imaging tests, and a biopsy. If throat cancer is diagnosed, you can rest assured Dr van Lierop has the experience to help you through it and make your cancer journey as comfortable as possible.

- Vocal cord polyps and nodules
Vocal cord lesions such as polyps, nodules and cysts, are benign growths that develop on the vocal cords due to overuse or trauma. They can, however, also be caused by smoking, allergies, sinusitis and hypothyroidism. These growths affect the normal vibration of the vocal cords causing voice changes such as a hoarse, raspy, cracked or breathy voice, coughing, limited singing range, sore throat and neck pain. Vocal cord lesions typically affect people who sing, shout or talk a lot.

Treatment may range from conservative speech therapy and medical treatments to more invasive treatments like surgery, which is why proper diagnosis is needed. Your ENT will be able to make an accurate diagnosis using a video laryngoscopy.

- Salivary gland tumours
Salivary gland tumours can begin in any of the salivary glands in your mouth, neck or throat; however, these rare tumours are generally not cancer. There are two types of salivary glands, the major salivary glands and minor salivary glands. There are several tiny salivary glands are in your lips, inside your cheeks, and throughout your mouth and throat but only 3 sets of major salivary glands, the:

  • parotid glands – just under the earlobes
  • sublingual glands – underneath the tongue
  • submandibular glands – under each side of the jawbone

A painless lump or swelling on or near your jaw; in your mouth or in your neck may be noticed and should be evaluated by an ENT specialist. Dr van Lierop will be able to do a biopsy and confirm whether or not the tumour is benign or malignant, and what treatment may involve.

- Reflux
Your stomach produces acid to help break down food so it is easier to digest. It is prevented from backing up or refluxing into your esophagus (food pipe) and throat by a band of muscle at the top of the stomach known as the lower esophageal sphincter. If stomach acid comes up into the esophagus, it is termed Gastro-Esophageal Reflux (GER). There is another valve at the top of the esophagus, the upper esophageal sphincter. If this band of muscle is not functioning well, you can have a backflow of acid up into the sensitive tissue at the back of the throat, larynx (voice box), and even the back of the nasal airway. This is called laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR). Both these types of reflux can cause problems for the throat and airways, and thus Dr van Lierop is the ideal specialist to see if you are having the following symptoms:

  • persistent heartburn
  • acid regurgitation
  • hoarseness in the morning
  • a burning sensation in the back of your throat
  • trouble swallowing
  • feeling as if something is stuck in your throat