Esophagitis refers to the inflammation of the lining of the esophagus, the tube that acts as a passage for the food in your mouth to transfer to your stomach. If esophagitis is left untreated it may worsen, causing difficulties while swallowing, scars, and ulcers. In rare cases, it may lead to "Barrett's esophagus", which is a high risk factor for esophagus cancer.
Causes of Esophagitis
The inflammation in the esophagus can be caused by an infection or irritation. Bacteria, viruses, fungi, and diseases can cause an infection in the esophagitis. Some common types of infections that lead to the development of esophagitis include:
* Candida: Is a yeast infection of the esophagus that develops when the body's immune system is weak. Candida in the esophagus roots from the same fungus that causes vaginal yeast infections and it can be treated with the use of antifungal drugs.
* Herpes: Is a viral infection that appears in the esophagus when the body's immune system weakens. Herpes can be treated with antiviral drugs.
Irritation leading to esophagitis may be caused by any of these offenders:
* Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
* Excessive vomiting
* Medications (e.g. aspirin and anti-inflammatories)
* Swallowing a large pill without water or a toxic substance
* Radiation injury (following radiation therapy for cancer treatment)
Symptoms of Esophagitis
Some common symptoms of esophagitis include:
* Trouble swallowing
* Frequent heartburn
* Mouth sores
If you experience any of these symptoms or feel like there's something stuck in the back of your throat, you should make an appointment to see your doctor or health care provider immediately.
Esophagitis Diagnosis and Treatment
To test for esophagitis your doctor will perform one of the following tests after reviewing your medical history and conducting a physical examination. These tests include:
Upper endoscopy. In this test, your doctor will use an endoscope, a long, flexible tube to examine your esophagus.
Biopsy. During a biopsy, your doctor will extract a small sample of your esophageal tissue and send it to a lab for examination.
Upper GI series (or barium swallow). During this procedure, your doctor will ask you to drink a barium solution. After ingesting the solution, your doctor will examine your esophagus with an x-ray. Since the barium turns the lining of the esophagus white, which makes it easy to view for any abnormalities in the esophagus.
The type treatment you receive for esophagitis depends on the cause of the inflammation. Some of the possible treatments your doctor may recommend include:
* Heartburn drugs to reduce acid production
* Antibiotics, antifungal or antiviral to treat an infection
* Pain medications
* Corticosteriod medication to treat inflammation
* Surgery to take
out the affected part of the esophagus