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How Acid Reflux Affects Your Throat

Outline of woman showing mouth, esophagus, and stomach. Arrows show stomach acid flowing up esophagus to irritate back of 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

Online Medical Reviewer: Fraser, Marianne, MSN, RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Image reviewed by StayWell medical illustration team.
Online Medical Reviewer: Lehrer, Jenifer, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 7/1/2016
© 2000-2016 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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