Reflux is caused by weakness in the muscle at the junction of the esophagus with the stomach. Normally, this muscular valve, or sphincter, functions to keep food and stomach acid from moving upward from the stomach to the esophagus and larynx. This valve opens to allow food into the stomach and closes to keep the stomach's contents from coming back up. The backward movement of stomach contents (gastric contents) up into the esophagus is referred to as gastroesophageal reflux.
Stomach acid can cause irritation of the lining of the esophagus, larynx, and throat. This can lead to:
- erosion of the lining of the esophagus (erosive esophagitis),
- narrowing of the esophagus (stricture),
- chronic hoarseness,
- chronic throat clearing,
- difficulty swallowing,
- foreign body sensation in the throat,
- asthma or cough,
- spasms of the vocal cords,
- sinusitis, and
- growths on the vocal cords (granulomas).