Esophagitis

Overview

What is esophagitis?

Esophagitis is an inflammation (swelling) of the lining of the esophagus, the tube that connects the throat to the stomach. If it is not treated, esophagitis can become very uncomfortable, causing difficulty in swallowing, and ulcers or scarring of the esophagus. Barrett's esophagus, a complication of acid reflux, is a risk factor for cancer of the esophagus.

Symptoms and Causes

What causes esophagitis?

Esophagitis is an irritation of the esophagus caused by any of the following:

  • A backflow of acid fluid from the stomach to the esophagus (GERD)
  • Vomiting
  • Medications such as aspirin and anti-inflammatories
  • Viruses, fungi, bacteria, or diseases that weaken the immune system

What are the symptoms of esophagitis?

Symptoms of esophagitis include:

  • Difficult and/or painful swallowing
  • Heartburn
  • Acid regurgitation (bringing food back up to the mouth from the stomach)

If you have any of these symptoms, you should contact your healthcare provider.

Diagnosis and Tests

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 long, flexible lighted tube called an endoscope is used to look at the esophagus.
  • Biopsy: A small sample of the esophageal tissue is removed and sent to a laboratory to be examined under a microscope.
  • Barium X-ray: X-rays are taken of the esophagus after the patient drinks a barium solution. Barium coats the lining of the esophagus and is visible on X-ray. This enables doctors to view abnormalities of the esophagus.

Management and Treatment

How is esophagitis treated?

Treatment for esophagitis depends on its cause. While medications that block acid production may be recommended, other medications may be prescribed for cases of esophagitis that are caused by infection.

While you are being treated for esophagitis, you can take the following steps to help limit discomfort:

  • Avoid spicy foods such as those with pepper, chili powder, curry and nutmeg.
  • Avoid acidic foods and beverages such as tomatoes, oranges, grapefruits and their juices. Instead, try nectars and imitation fruit drinks with vitamin C.
  • Include more soft foods such as applesauce, cooked cereals, mashed potatoes, custards, puddings and high-protein shakes in your diet.
  • Take small bites and chew your food thoroughly.
  • Avoid alcohol and tobacco.

Outlook / Prognosis

What is the prognosis (outlook) for people who have esophagitis?

The causes of esophagitis usually respond to treatment; however, some causes, such as acid reflux, may require long-term treatment.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/06/2019.

References

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Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy