Does GERD Cause a Burning Throat?

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There can be several causes of a burning throat, such as a sore throat or inflammation of the adenoids. A more common cause of this burning sensation is Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

The burning sensation caused by GERD can occur high up in the throat or lower in the throat, and the pain may feel worse with swallowing. There can also be a sour, salty, or acidic taste in the mouth.

The esophagus and stomach are connected by a band of muscle fibers called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES).

Normally, the LES works like a valve, opening to allow food to pass into the stomach and closing to keep food and digestive juices from flowing back into the esophagus. But if the sphincter relaxes when it shouldn't, or becomes weak, stomach acid can flow backward into the esophagus causing the burning sensation we know as heartburn.

GERD and Burning in the Throat

When stomach acid is refluxed into the esophagus, at times it may reach the throat. When this happens, the throat is irritated and a burning feeling may occur.

Esophagitis and Burning in the Throat

A condition called esophagitis may cause a burning feeling in the throat. Esophagitis is an inflammation of the esophagus. The most common cause of esophagitis is GERD. When stomach acid is refluxed into the throat, it can cause irritation, which may lead to this irritation. Other causes of esophagitis include infections, surgery, or chemotherapy.

Heartburn (acid reflux) can occur for a number of reasons. These include eating foods that often trigger heartburn, such as acidic foods (e.g. tomatoes and citrus fruits), drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, being pregnant, and being overweight.

If you suffer from chronic heartburn, you should speak with your doctor.

The two of you can discuss a treatment plan that works for you. A doctor will usually suggest lifestyle modifications first. You can also reduce your chances of heartburn occurring by avoiding foods that can trigger heartburn, and how to sleep to prevent nighttime heartburn. If these don't work to control your heartburn, your doctor will discuss with you other treatment options, such as Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs).

Difficulty Swallowing (Dysphagia)

This can occur when food does not pass normally from the mouth through the esophagus to the stomach. There may be a food sticking in the throat sensation, chest pressure or "burning" after eating, or a feeling of choking.

Several conditions can cause difficulty swallowing, and this symptom should always be evaluated by a physician. In many cases, though, difficulty swallowing is linked to a condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which causes the contents of the stomach to inappropriately leak into the esophagus.

When GERD is not treated or is under-treated, it could result in serious complications.Some of these complications can cause difficulty swallowing. Studies have shown that approximately 43% of patients with severe erosive esophagitis will experience difficulty swallowing, and up to 35% of patients with mild erosive esophagitis will experience difficulty swallowing.

Other studies have shown that approximately one-third of patients with esophageal strictures will experience difficulty swallowing. One of the symptoms of esophageal cancer is difficulty swallowing.

Again, if you have any difficulty swallowing, it is important that you see your physician.

Other Symptoms of GERD 

  • Chest pain
    This pain usually starts behind the breastbone (the sternum), and may travel up to the throat. It usually occurs shortly after eating, and can last from a few minutes to several hours. It is important to remember that sometimes the pain of a heart attack can be confused with the burning pain of GERD, and it is always important to seek medical attention if there is any doubt as to the origin of this chest pain.
    • Hoarseness, especially in the morning
      Irritation caused by refluxed stomach acid into the throat can lead to hoarseness.
    • Persistent cough
      In some studies, GERD accounted for about 41% of cases of a chronic cough in nonsmoking patients. If refluxed stomach acid is breathed in, it can cause coughing.
    • Bad breath
      When acid from the stomach comes up into the throat and mouth, acrid-smelling, bad breath can result.


    "Heartburn and GERD FAQ." American College of Gastroenterology. 9 Feb 2011​

    "Heartburn, Gastroesophageal Reflux (GER), and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)." NIH Publication No. 07–0882 May 2007. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC). 9 Feb 2011

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