What is esophagitis?
Esophagitis is an inflammation
of the lining of the esophagus, the tube that connects the throat
to the stomach. If left untreated, this condition can become very
uncomfortable, causing difficulty in swallowing and ulcers or
scarring of the esophagus. In rare instances, a condition known as
Barrett's esophagus may develop, which is a risk factor for
cancer of the esophagus.
What causes esophagitis?
Esophagitis is caused by an
infection or irritation in the esophagus. An infection can be
caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi or diseases that weaken the
immune system. Irritation can be caused by any of the
- A backflow of acid fluid from the stomach to the esophagus
- Medications such as aspirin and anti-inflammatories
- Hital hernias
What are the symptoms of esophagitis?
- Difficult and/or painful swallowing
- Acid regurgitation
If you have any of these symptoms, you should contact your
health care provider as soon as possible.
How is esophagitis diagnosed?
Once your doctor has
performed a thorough physical examination and reviewed your medical
history, there are several tests that can be used to diagnose
esophagitis. These include:
- Endoscopy: A test in which a long, flexible lighted tube
called an endoscope is used to look at the esophagus
- Biopsy: During this test, a small sample of the
esophageal tissue is removed and then sent to a laboratory to be
examined under a microscope.
- Barium x-ray: During this procedure, x-rays are taken of
the esophagus after the patient drinks a barium solution. Barium
coats the lining of the esophagus and shows up white on an x-ray.
This characteristic enables doctors to view any abnormalities.
How is esophagitis treated?
esophagitis depends on its cause. While medications that block acid
production may be recommended, other medications may be prescribed
for infectious causes of esophagitis. To treat pain brought on by
esophagitis, your doctor may give you an analgesic to gargle with
and then swallow.
While being treated for esophagitis, there are certain steps you
can take to help limit any discomfort that you may feel. These
- Avoiding spicy foods such as those with pepper, chili powder,
curry and nutmeg
- Avoiding hard foods such as nuts, crackers, and raw
- Avoiding acidic foods and beverages such as tomatoes, oranges,
grapefruits and their juices. Instead, try nectars and imitation
fruit drinks with vitamin C
- Including more soft foods such as applesauce, cooked cereals,
mashed potatoes, custards, puddings and high protein shakes in your
- Taking small bites and chewing your food thoroughly
- Avoiding alcohol and tobacco
What is the prognosis for esophagitis?
of esophagitis usually respond to treatment, however some causes,
such as acid reflux, may require long-term treatment.