Esophagus disorders tend to affect the passage of food from the mouth into the stomach. Here, we will try to discuss a few esophagus diseases, and help you spot their symptoms sooner.
The food, water and saliva that we swallow reaches our stomach through a long tube. This tube is made of smooth muscles called the esophagus. The esophagus starts just after the epiglottis that prevents food from entering lungs. The esophagus travels down the chest and reaches the gastroesophageal junction. This is the point where the stomach meets the esophagus. There are sphincter muscles present at the lower esophagus that help prevent the back flow of stomach acid into the esophagus. Disorders that affect the esophagus tend to occur in any part of the long tube.
Common Esophagus Diseases
Different patients come with different complaints regarding esophagus pain. Some of the common esophagus diseases are as follows:
When the tissue lining the esophagus is replaced by the tissue cells similar to those lining the intestines, it leads to intestinal metaplasia. This condition is called Barrett’s esophagus. This condition occurs due to repeated exposure to the acid from the stomach. Most patients never seem to show any of this esophagus disorder symptoms. However, the risk of developing long-term Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), and esophageal cancer increase. Symptoms of Barrett’s esophagus include black, tarry stools, weight loss, vomiting blood, and loss of appetite.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
This is a serious form of Gastroesophageal Reflux (GER). The sphincter at the lower end of the esophagus does not close properly and allows stomach acid to enter the esophagus. Thus, the acid damages the internal lining of the esophagus. The most common symptom of GERD is heartburn. Patients complain of burning sensation in the lower part of the mid-chest, mid abdomen and behind the breast bone. It also leads to difficulty in swallowing, and pain. The treatment for esophagus pain and GERD include use of antacids, foaming agents like Gaviscon, H2 blockers, proton pump inhibitors (omeprazole, rabeprazole) and prokinetics (bethanechol and metoclopramide).
When a person experiences problem while swallowing, and the food tends to stick to the esophagus before reaching the stomach, this condition is diagnosed as esophageal dysphagia. There are a number of factors that lead to dysphagia. These include, congenital birth disorders or tumors causing the obstruction. Motor disorders of the smooth muscles lead to impairment of the movement of solids as well as liquids.
The dysfunction of the upper esophageal sphincter muscles is called cricopharyngeal incoordination. The sphincters tend to open up abnormally increasing the risk of food entering the lungs. This can result in different lung diseases.
This is a motility disorder of the smooth muscles of the esophagus and the lower esophageal sphincter. This condition leads to difficulty in swallowing, regurgitation and chest pain. Few patients tend to suffer from cough when they lie down horizontally. The treatment includes lifestyle changes, use of calcium channel blockers, Botox injections and in some cases myotomy is performed.
This is a condition where abnormal esophageal pockets are formed. This occurs due to dysfunction of lower esophageal sphincter. The food gets trapped in these pockets, and causes esophageal infection. The food may be regurgitated after the person lies down.
The most serious of all disorders that affect the esophagus is cancer. This disease causes dysphagia, pain while swallowing (odynophagia), intolerance to hard foods, lack of appetite, heartburn, pain behind sternum, horse cough, nausea, vomiting, etc. The tumor may even bleed leading to hematemesis (vomiting blood). Treatment involves esophagectomy, laser therapy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Although a rare form of cancer, the overall five-year survival rate of this disease is just 15%.
One should seek treatment for esophagus pain that persists for over 2 weeks. Do not take esophagus diseases lightly as they may lead to serious complications, if left untreated.