Frequent acid reflux can damage your esophagus and throat. It may contribute to more severe issues, like esophageal stricture and Barrett’s esophagus. Treatment may prevent complications.

When you experience heartburn or acid reflux, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) relaxes or opens when it shouldn’t, allowing stomach acid to rise back into the esophagus. You may feel acid regurgitation, which can cause a burning throat.

If you have acid reflux two or more times per week, you may have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD can increase your risk of complications that may affect your throat.

Learn about the complications of regular heartburn and how to protect your throat from damage.

That burning sensation you feel with heartburn is stomach acid harming the lining of the esophagus. Stomach acid is highly acidic.

Over time, repeated exposure to stomach acid can damage your throat tissue and cause esophagitis, or inflammation of the esophagus.

Symptoms of esophagitis may include:

Having esophagitis makes your esophagus more prone to injuries like:

  • erosion
  • bleeding ulcers
  • scar tissue

A doctor can diagnose this condition with a combination of tests, including an upper endoscopy and biopsy.

If you receive a diagnosis of esophagitis, your doctor will likely begin treatment immediately, as an inflamed esophagus can lead to more health complications.

Learn how doctors diagnose GERD.

If GERD and esophagitis symptoms are not treated, stomach acid may further damage your esophagus. Over time, repeated damage may lead to complications, such as:

Esophageal stricture

Esophageal stricture is a narrowing of the esophagus. It typically happens if you have scar tissue resulting from GERD or esophageal tumors. As food has less space to pass through, you may experience difficulty swallowing or food getting caught in your throat. Doctors may classify it as benign if the stricture is made of noncancerous tissue.

Esophageal rings

Esophageal rings are rings or folds of abnormal tissue that form in the lower lining of the esophagus. These bands of tissue may constrict the esophagus and cause trouble swallowing.

Barrett’s esophagus

Barrett’s esophagus is a rare condition in which stomach acid damages the cells in the esophagus lining, causing them to become similar to the cells lining the small intestine. Although it may not cause symptoms, it can increase the risk of developing a type of esophageal cancer called esophageal adenocarcinoma.

Proper treatment for frequent heartburn or GERD can help you avoid these complications.

Read more about complications that can result from GERD.

If stomach acid rises into the back of the throat or nasal airway, it can also damage your throat. This condition is often referred to as laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR).

LPR is sometimes called silent reflux because it doesn’t always cause symptoms that people easily recognize as reflux symptoms. If you have GERD, doctors may check you for LPR to avoid any potential throat or voice damage. Symptoms of LPR may include:

  • hoarseness
  • chronic throat clearing
  • feeling of a “lump” in the throat
  • chronic cough or cough that wakes you from your sleep
  • choking episodes
  • “rawness” in the throat
  • voice problems (particularly in singers or voice professionals)

Read more about health conditions related to GERD.

Depending on the severity and frequency of your symptoms, doctors may recommend medications to reduce acid production or surgery like fundoplication to improve how your lower esophageal sphincter works to keep acid out of your esophagus. This can help prevent symptoms and future damage.

You can also try lifestyle modifications that may help prevent acid reflux.

Read more about treating and preventing acid reflux.

How do I get rid of the burning sensation in my throat from acid reflux?

Antacids, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), and other medications may help relieve acid reflux. Some of these medications are available over the counter, but others may require a prescription. You can try sipping small amounts of water if your throat burns from acid reflux. If you have frequent burning throat pain from acid reflux, it’s best to talk with a doctor about treatment. Stomach acid that regurgitates into your throat can cause other health issues.

Does drinking water help acid reflux?

Sipping water slowly can help support digestion. This may help digested food move on from the stomach and reduce symptoms.

How do you calm a GERD flare-up?

To relieve your symptoms, you can try taking antacids. Some people also try home remedies, such as sipping ginger or chamomile tea.

Untreated GERD can damage the esophagus and, in some people, the throat tissue, causing inflammation. This can cause more severe symptoms, including trouble swallowing.

This can also raise your risk of other health conditions like esophageal stricture and Barrett’s esophagus.

Treatment for GERD may prevent symptoms and reduce the risk of these complications.