Acid reflux refers to a condition where the stomach contents travel back up to the esophagus. Due to the acidic contents of the stomach, this condition can cause irritation or pain in the throat.

Acid reflux, which people also call gastroesophageal reflux (GER), is a common condition that most people experience at some point. It may cause symptoms such as heartburn or regurgitation. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) refers to chronic acid reflux that can cause further symptoms and complications.

Acid reflux and GERD can affect the throat in several ways. When a person is experiencing acid reflux, the stomach contents can irritate the esophagus, causing a sore throat. If a person has GERD and experiences chronic acid reflux, they may experience other throat symptoms. These can include esophageal stricture, which involves the narrowing of the esophagus, or an esophageal ulcer.

This article discusses the ways in which acid reflux may affect the throat. It will also explore symptoms, treatments, possible complications, and preventive steps.

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There are a range of ways that acid reflux can affect the throat, and some are more serious than others. The stomach contents can cause mild damage and irritation to the esophagus. This can present as a sore throat, a lump in the throat, or difficulty swallowing.

Acid from the stomach reaching the vocal cords can cause inflammation. This is laryngeal pharyngeal reflux (LPR), a condition typically affecting the upper esophageal sphincter. LPR can cause symptoms, including:

  • hoarseness
  • a persistent feeling of needing to clear the throat
  • coughing
  • feeling like something stuck in the throat

What is acid reflux?

Acid reflux, or (GER), is a common digestive disorder where some of the contents of the stomach travel back up to the esophagus. This may include stomach acids, other fluids, and food. This can cause symptoms such as heartburn and an acidic taste in the mouth.

It is typical for individuals to experience acid reflux occasionally. Certain foods, drinks, and other lifestyle factors can lead to acid reflux, but it usually only causes mild symptoms.

When a person experiences acid reflux frequently, it can become a chronic condition called GERD.

Learn more about acid reflux.

The following symptoms may be a sign of more severe damage relating to GERD:

  • pain in the chest
  • nausea
  • ongoing vomiting
  • blood in the vomit, which may look like coffee grounds
  • difficulty or pain while swallowing
  • loss of appetite
  • bloody stool, or stool that looks black or like tar
  • unintentional weight loss
  • chest pain
  • ongoing cough

Treating and preventing acid reflux can help reduce any damage or the likelihood of future complications.


There is a range of medications available to treat the symptoms of acid reflux or GERD. Doctors may prescribe certain medications in more severe cases.

Medications for treating acid reflux and GERD include:

  • Antacids: These are over-the-counter medications that can treat mild acid reflux symptoms. However, individuals should not take antacids daily or for more severe symptoms.
  • H2 blockers: These medications reduce the amount of acid the stomach produces and can help the esophagus heal from any reflux damage. A person can buy H2 blockers over the counter or as a doctor prescribes.
  • Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs): These medications also lower the amount of acid the stomach produces and are a more effective treatment for GERD than H2 blockers. PPIs are very effective at healing esophageal damage due to reflux.


A doctor may suggest certain surgical or medical procedures if medications and lifestyle changes do not improve acid reflux or GERD symptoms.

Surgical therapies include:

  • Fundoplication: This is one of the most common surgical treatments for GERD and can lead to long-term reduction of symptoms. The operation involves a surgeon sewing the top of the stomach to the end of the esophagus.
  • Bariatric surgery: This is a term that refers to various weight loss surgeries. Gastric bypass surgery has become more common among individuals with obesity who have GERD or frequent acid reflux.
  • Endoscopic anti-reflux therapies: This procedure is a common approach for treating GERD or acid reflux. An endoscopy can encompass various types of procedures that involve using a scope or camera to investigate the digestive tract.

In more severe cases, or the case of GERD, complications affecting the esophagus and throat can affect the esophagus and throat in a range of ways, such as:

In most cases, a person with acid reflux only experiences mild symptoms or no symptoms at all.

Those with GERD are usually able to successfully manage the condition with the help of lifestyle changes, medication, and, in some cases, surgical interventions. It is rare to experience ongoing complications or limitations due to GERD if a person can manage their condition well.

Certain lifestyle changes can help prevent or reduce the frequency of acid reflux or GERD, as well as ease symptoms. These include:

  • maintaining a moderate weight
  • avoiding eating less than 3 hours before going to bed
  • maintaining good sleep hygiene
  • elevating the head around 6–8 inches when sleeping
  • avoiding smoking, if applicable
  • limiting alcohol use
  • eating smaller meals
  • limiting caffeine intake

Foods that may trigger acid reflux include:

  • chocolate
  • spicy foods
  • acidic foods, for example, citrus fruits or very sugary foods
  • carbonated drinks
  • alcohol
  • caffeine
  • foods high in fat
  • mint

Learn more about preventing acid reflux.

Acid reflux, or GER, is a common condition that most people experience at some point. Sometimes, this condition can cause no symptoms, and usually, any symptoms are mild, such as heartburn or an acidic taste in the mouth.

If a person experiences frequent acid reflux, they may have a chronic condition called GERD. Someone with GERD may experience more severe symptoms and in some cases have complications from the condition.

There are several treatment and prevention options available for those who experience acid reflux or GERD, which range from lifestyle changes to surgical interventions. In most cases, individuals can manage these conditions and do not experience serious limitations or complications.