It’s not a pretty sight: peering inside your mouth to see that your tonsils are red and irritated looking.
The tonsils are in the path of acid reflux that makes it into the throat.
The refluxed contents from the stomach contain acid, which is anything but gentle.
When both tonsils appear irritated and red, this can be due to an infection.
Acid Reflux’s Effect on the Tonsils
“Acid reflux can cause soreness and irritation in the throat area and theoretically, at least, could cause inflammation in the tonsils,” says Morton Tavel, MD, Clinical Professor Emeritus of Medicine, Indiana University School of Medicine, and author of “Health Tips, Myths and Tricks: A Physician’s Advice.”
“However, inflammation of tonsils from this cause is highly unlikely and more often the result of viral or bacterial infections.”
If you feel soreness or tenderness in the area of your tonsils, this strongly points towards an infectious cause – especially if they appear red. It’s time to see your doctor.
Acid Reflux in the Throat
Nevertheless, acid reflux irritates the throat and even the mouth for many people.
This may occur transiently due to transient triggers (such as emotional stress or running), or, it may occur on a chronic basis.
The phenomenon is called LPR: laryngopharyngeal reflux disease.
Just because one does not experience heartburn or upper abdominal pain or burning doesn’t mean that the stomach’s juices haven’t gotten up higher into the throat.
If the acid isn’t in the esophagus long enough there won’t be discomfort in the chest.
However, the absence of heartburn does not rule out the presence of acidic juices in the esophagus!
Classic Symptoms of LPR
• Hoarse voice
• Frequent cough
• Lump or sore feeling in the throat
• Scratchy or burning throat
• Sensation of difficulty swallowing or breathing
• Unpleasant taste in the mouth
• Symptoms affecting the tonsils from acid reflux are not well-documented.
Dr. Tavel’s medical research includes over 125 publications, editorials and book reviews in peer-reviewed national medical journals. He was formerly director of the cardiac rehabilitation program at St. Vincent Hospital in Indiana. mortontavel.com
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.