Esophagitis is the condition, where the lining of the esophagus gets inflamed and irritated. It is more commonly caused by the acid reflux disease, which is characterized by the regurgitation of the stomach content.
Esophagitis refers to the irritation and inflammation of the esophagus, which is a muscular tube located between the pharynx and the stomach. The food we consume first enters the pharynx and then the esophagus, from where it goes to the stomach. So, the esophagus basically functions as a swallowing tube.
The inflammation of the esophagus can produce several uncomfortable symptoms, including pain or difficulty while swallowing. The treatment depends on the severity of the condition, as well as the underlying causes. So, let’s take a look at the factors that can cause this condition before going into the details of its treatment.
Causes and Symptoms
It can have several causes, of which the most common cause is acid reflux disease, where stomach acid flows back to the esophagus due to overeating or a defect in the lower esophageal sphincter. The lower esophageal sphincter is a valve-like structure that prevents the backflow of stomach content and acid to the esophagus. When stomach acid flows back to the esophagus, it can cause irritation and inflammation of this organ.
Other important causes of esophagitis are, infections caused by candida or herpes, frequent episodes of vomiting, overuse of certain drugs like aspirin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, antibiotics, and potassium chloride, and the presence of a high level of eosinophils in the esophagus.
The major risk factors for this condition are, excessive consumption of alcohol, obesity, smoking, hiatal hernia, excessive consumption of spicy and acidic food, surgery or radiation to the chest, and a weakened immune system due to diseases like cancer and HIV/AIDS. The inflammation of the esophagus can produce a number of signs and symptoms, like heartburn, pain or difficulty while swallowing food, a feeling that something is sticking to the throat, nausea, vomiting, and regurgitation of saliva.
Diagnosis and Treatment
This condition is usually diagnosed with the help of upper endoscopy, biopsy, and barium X-ray. As far as the treatment is concerned, it depends on several factors including the severity of the inflammation and the underlying causes. If it is caused by acid reflux disease, then physicians usually prescribe medications like proton pump inhibitors, that block the production of acids in the stomach. If medications fail to provide relief, then physicians may opt for a surgical procedure, known as ‘fundoplication’.
If this condition is caused by the overuse of a drug, then it can improve with the discontinuation of that particular drug. Otherwise, the patients can be given a liquid version of the medication. This type of esophagitis can be managed by drinking plenty of water while taking a pill, and avoiding lying down immediately after taking the medication. If the inflammation of the esophagus is caused by bacterial, viral or fungal infections, then appropriate antibiotics, antifungal, or antiviral medications will be required for its treatment.
Medications like steroids can also be required for treating this condition, if it is associated with the presence of a high level of eosinophils in the esophagus. This condition is known as eosinophilic esophagitis, and it can be associated with food allergies and allergies to non-food items like pollen. If food allergies are responsible for this condition, then doctors can recommend a diet that excludes those particular food items.
Dietary restrictions can also be required if acid reflux disease is responsible for causing the inflammation of the esophagus. Acid reflux disease can be managed by excluding acidic and fatty food, citrus fruits, and tomatoes and tomato-based products from the diet. The consumption of alcohol, caffeinated beverage, onion, garlic, and chocolates also need to be restricted to manage this condition.
If left untreated, esophagitis can lead to complications like narrowing of the esophagus, development of ulcers, and Barrett’s esophagus. If the inflammation is quite severe, then it can increase the risk of esophageal cancer, which again highlights the importance of prompt evaluation and treatment of this condition.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be replaced for the advice of a medical professional.