Find out how acid reflux can cause throat symptoms without causing heartburn.
Yes, indeed, it’s possible for acid reflux to make its way into the throat and cause its typical throat symptoms such as cough, without causing any heartburn or chest discomfort.
“Not everyone feels esophagitis, even if present,” says Jonathan Zinberg, MD, chief of gastroenterology at South Nassau Communities Hospital, Oceanside, NY.
“Occasionally there are no significant findings in the esophagus and only in the throat,” adds Dr. Zinberg.
“Perhaps their esophagus is more ‘resistant’ than most. Sometimes what looks to the ENT doctor like reflux-induced changes actually are not.”
Heartburn and Throat Symptoms not Always Connected
A burning sensation in the chest, and the various throat symptoms of laryngopharyngeal reflux disease (LPR) are not always intertwined.
Many sufferers of LPR’s classic throat related symptoms (hoarse voice, burning in the throat, lump feeling in the throat, unpleasant taste in the mouth) do not have any heartburn or upper abdominal discomfort.
You can easily have acid reflux in the throat causing symptoms there. All without feeling heartburn.
So the big question is: How do the acidic contents from your stomach “bypass” the esophagus and “settle” in the throat?
As Dr. Zinberg had pointed out, you can actually have an inflammatory process going on in the esophagus due to acid reflux and not even know it.
Or, maybe your esophagus is tough enough not to be so readily affected by the stomach’s harsh juices – but your vocal cords are more sensitive to them – resulting in your annoying symptoms.
“Thick mucous is produced to coat the throat when stomach acid goes into the larynx area,” says Stacey Silvers, MD, in my article titled “Trouble Swallowing, Thick Mucus in Back of Throat: Causes, Solutions.”
This is why the acidic juices that make their way up the esophagus can lead to symptoms involving the throat and mouth. The absence of heartburn doesn’t mean the absence of acid reflux.
Jonathan Zinberg, MD
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.