The oesophagus is a muscular tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach. Oesophagitis or inflammation of this tube can cause tissue damage and lead to symptoms such as chest pain and difficulty swallowing.
Oesophagitis may be caused by regurgitation of acidic stomach contents, infection, allergies, certain oral medications or areas of narrowing. Factors that increase the risk of developing these conditions also increase the risk for esophagitis. These include:
- Being overweight
- Going to bed immediately following a meal
- Certain foods
- Hiatal hernia
- Weakened immune system due to HIV or cancer treatments
- Alcohol consumption
Oesophagitis can change the structure of the oesophagus if left untreated. It can lead to narrowing of the oesophagus and changes in the lining cells (Barret’s oesophagus) increasing the risk of developing cancer.
It is important to have your doctor evaluate any persistent symptoms of oesophagitis. Along with your symptoms, your doctor will also review your history, diet, medications and allergies. A physical examination is performed and certain tests such as a barium X-ray may be performed to identify any areas of narrowing or other abnormalities. Your doctor may perform an endoscopy where a narrow lighted tube with a camera is inserted through your mouth to view your oesophagus and possibly obtain a sample of tissue for laboratory study. Tests may also be performed to identify an infection or allergy.
Treatment depends on the underlying cause as well as the severity of your symptoms or complications. You may receive medication to control acidity and reflux. A surgical procedure called fundoplication may be performed to strengthen a weak lower oesophageal sphincter responsible for reflux. Medications may be administered to treat an infection or reduce an allergic reaction. You will be advised to avoid possible allergens or foods that induce esophagitis. Surgery may be performed to dilate areas of severe narrowing.