Esophagitis

Esophagitis is a general term for any inflammation, irritation, or swelling of the esophagus, the tube that leads from the back of the mouth to the stomach.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Esophagitis is frequently caused by the backflow of acid-containing fluid from the stomach to the esophagus, a condition called gastroesophageal reflux. An autoimmune disorder called eosinophilic esophagitis also causes this condition.

The following increase your risk of esophagitis:

  • Alcohol use
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Surgery or radiation to the chest (for example, treatment for lung cancer)
  • Taking certain medications without plenty of water especially alendronate, tetracycline, doxycycline, and vitamin C
  • Vomiting

Persons with weakened immune systems due to HIV and certain medications (such as corticosteroids) may develop infections that lead to esophagitis.

Esophageal infection may be due to fungi, yeast (especially Candida infections), or viruses such as herpes or cytomegalovirus.

Symptoms

The infection or irritation may cause the esophagus to become inflamed. Ulcers may form. Symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Painful swallowing
  • Heartburn (acid reflux)
  • Hoarseness
  • Sore throat
  • Signs and tests

The doctor may perform the following tests:

  • Upper GI series (barium swallow x-ray)
  • Removal of a piece of tissue from the esophagus for examination (biopsy)

Treatment

Treatment depends on the specific cause. Reflux disease may require medications to reduce acid. Infections will require antibiotics.

Content provided by U.S. National Library of Medicine