ZocdocAnswersCan stomach acid damage your esophagus?

Question

Can stomach acid damage your esophagus?

I'm afraid that my throat is going to be damaged by my stomach acid. I get acid reflux a lot. Will it destroy my throat after a number of years?

Answer

Stomach acid is made to help digest food in the stomach. However, there is a problem where the acid "refluxing" up from the stomach into the food pipe (the esophagus) which connects the mouth to the stomach. This is known as gastro-esophageal reflux disease or GERD. This can cause many symptoms such as heartburn or indigestion. While for many people this is simply a small symptoms that resolves with an antacid -- you are right that there are some people that have serious longterm damage from long-standing reflux of acid. I would recommend that you discuss this with your doctor. If there is longstanding reflux of the acid from the stomach -- certain problems can arise. The most common problem is actually a problem with the esophagus itself -- known as Barret's esophagus. In this, the acid changes the lining of the esophagus -- and the change can in some people lead to cancer of the esophagus. It is more rare for the stomach acid to get all the way up through the esophagus and into the voice box or throat -- however this is certainly possible. We know some people get a cough or even laryngitis (lose their voice) from acid. It is possible, but very very unlikely that there would be long term damage to your throat. Reflux has real risks -- although the throat is less commonly affected. Talk to your doctor for more information.

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