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Alternative namesInflammation - esophagus
DefinitionEsophagitis is inflammation, irritation, and 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 backflow of acid-containing fluid from the stomach to the esophagus ( gastroesophageal reflux ). It can also be caused by vomiting , surgery, medications or hernias.
In patients with weakened immune systems caused by HIV and certain medications (such as corticosteroids), esophagitis may be caused by an infection of the esophagus. Esophageal infection can be caused by viruses (such as herpes or cytomegalovirus) and fungi or yeast (especially Candida infections).
Signs and testsThe doctor may perform the following tests:
TreatmentTreatment depends on the specific cause. Reflux disease may require medications to reduce acid. Infections will require antibiotics.
Expectations (prognosis)The disorders that cause esophagitis usually respond to treatment.
If untreated, esophagitis can cause severe discomfort, swallowing difficulty to the extent of causing malnutrition or dehydration , and eventual scarring of the esophagus. This scarring can lead to a stricture of the esophagus, and food or medications may not be able to pass through to the stomach.
Rarely, a condition called Barrett's esophagus can develop, which can lead to cancer of the esophagus.
Calling your health care providerCall your health care provider if you have symptoms that suggest esophagitis.
Update Date: 11/9/2002Andrew J. Muir, M.D., M.H.S., Division of Gastroenterology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT