Esophagitis is an inflammation of the esophagus (the tube that carries food from the pharynx to the stomach). If left untreated, it can become very uncomfortable.

Causes

The most common causes of esophagitis are:

  • A viral, bacterial or yeast infection
  • Irritation caused by:
    • Backflow of stomach secretions into the esophagus
    • Vomiting
    • Ingestion of chemical products
    • Ingestion of medication (ex: anti-inflammatories)

Symptoms

Patients with esophagitis may experience one or several of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Painful swallowing
  • Burning sensation in the esophagus
  • Acid regurgitation
  • Coughing that is disruptive to sleep

Complications

Chronic inflammation may lead to severe narrowing or stricture of the esophagus, making it more difficult or impossible for patients to eat. Esophageal perforations may also occur, increasing the risk of cancer.

Diagnosis

An endoscopy is used to diagnose esophagitis. The procedure involves the insertion of a flexible tube equipped with a camera that allows the physician to examine the esophageal tissue. With this device, the physician can assess whether the mucosa is normal or inflamed. It is also used to detect perforations. A biopsy (a sample of tissue) can be taken to examine the condition of the tissue.

Treatment

Pharmacological measures
The treatment for esophagitis depends on its cause. If dealing with infectious esophagitis, antibiotics are required. For esophagitis caused by irritation, the first step is taking medication that blocks acid production. In addition to this treatment, the use of analgesics may be necessary to alleviate pain. If treatment remains ineffective, your physician may recommend surgery. Another treatment option, known as mechanical dilation, may also be suggested.

Non pharmacological measures
Several steps can be taken to limit the discomfort caused by esophagitis. These include:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Eating and drinking more slowly
  • Eating lighter, well balanced meals
  • Trying to sleep on your left side and raising the head of the bed by 15 cm
  • Wearing loose fitting clothes
  • Not lying down after meals
  • Not eating foods that are either very cold or very hot
  • Avoiding intense exercise and physical exertion after meals
  • Losing excess weight
  • Eliminating stress and embracing relaxation

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