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How Acid Reflux Affects Your Throat

Do you have to clear your throat or cough often? Are you hoarse? Do you have trouble swallowing? If you have these or other throat symptoms, you may have acid reflux. This occurs when stomach acid flows back up and irritates your throat.

Why you have throat symptoms

There are muscles (esophageal sphincters) at both ends of the tube that carries food to your stomach (the esophagus). These muscles relax to let food pass. Then they tighten to keep stomach acid down. When the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) doesn’t tighten enough, acid can flow back (reflux) from your stomach into your esophagus. This may cause heartburn. In some cases the upper esophageal sphincter (UES) also doesn’t work well. Then acid can travel higher and enter your throat (pharynx). In many cases, this causes throat symptoms.

Common throat symptoms

  • Need to clear your throat often

  • Feeling like you’re choking

  • Long-term (chronic) cough

  • Hoarseness

  • Trouble swallowing

  • Feel like you have a lump in your throat

  • Sour or acid taste

  • Sore throat that keeps coming back

Outline of a human figure showing anatomy of upper digestive system from mouth to stomach. Esophagus goes through diaphragm to connect to stomach. Larynx (voice box) produces sound used for speaking and is also involved in swallowing. Pharynx, or throat, connects mouth to larynx and esophagus. Weak lower esophageal sphincter allows stomach acid to move up into esophagus. This may cause upper sphincter to constrict. If this happens you may feel as if you have lump in throat. Weak upper esophageal sphincter allows stomach acid to move up into throat. When this happens, larynx and pharynx can be injured.

Online Medical Reviewer: Fraser, Marianne, MSN, RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Lehrer, Jenifer, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 7/1/2016
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