Esophagitis is an inflammation that infects and damages the tissues present in the esophagus. Esophagus is a tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach. Acid reflux, certain infections and medications may also cause inflammation in the esophagus. This condition is painful and people suffering with this condition may find it difficult to swallow food or liquids.
Esophagitis affects 2 to 5 percent of the people above the age of 55 years. If this condition is left untreated, it may cause various problems such as narrowing of the tube which may lead to complications such as formation of ulcers due to the accumulation of acid reflux from the stomach. With immediate medical attention and appropriate treatment the person may recover within a few weeks.
TYPES OF ESOPHAGITIS
There are three types of esophagitis. They are:
- Reflux esophagitis occurs due to a condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This causes chronic inflammation in the esophagus as the acid and the contents in the stomach get accumulated in the esophagus.
- Drug-induced esophagitis is a condition which occurs due to the insufficient intake of water while having medicines. This allows the medicine to stay in the esophagus for a longer time and therefore causes irritation.
- Infectious esophagitis is a rare condition in which the infection may develop due to bacteria, virus or parasite residing inside the esophagus. Infectious esophagitis occurs due to poor immune system and people suffering with HIV, AIDS, cancer and diabetes are more prone to this type of esophagitis.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
The signs and symptoms of esophagitis include:
- Sore throat
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Acid reflux
- Hoarse voice
- Pain while swallowing
- Abdominal pain
- Pain in the chest
- Poor appetite
- Shortness of breath
- Head ache
There are various conditions that may cause esophagitis. They are:
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may cause esophagitis.
- Certain medications which do not dissolve in the stomach due to insufficient intake of water may cause esophagitis.
- Infections in the esophagus may also cause esophagitis.
- Consumption of alcohol and other caustic substances may cause esophagitis.
The following are the risk factors for esophagitis.
- Having food before going to bed increases the risk of esophagitis
- Consuming excess alcohol, caffeine, chocolate etc
- People with a family history of certain allergic reactions may be at a risk of developing esophagitis
- People with weak immune system
- Having medicines without adequate amount of water
If esophagitis condition is left untreated it may lead to complications such as change in the shape of the esophagus and narrowing of the esophagus. In severe cases, the condition may also increase the risk of developing esophageal cancer.
The following are the tests performed to diagnose esopagitis.
- Physical examination is the first thing the doctor performs. The doctor may also ask for the complete medical history of the patient.
- Endoscopy is a test performed which uses a camera and a lighted tube that allows the doctor to look directly inside the esophagus, and stomach. An endoscopy is performed for a better evaluation of the condition.
- Barium meal X-ray is done to identify the changes or abnormalities in the stomach. In this test, the patient is asked to swallow barium which is a liquid. As it travels through the stomach, the condition of the stomach is known in the form of an X-ray.
The treatment for esophagitis is given to reduce the symptoms and also to manage the complications of the disease. The treatment is based on the type of esophagitis and the cause.
- Over-the-counter medicines such as Zantac, Iansoprazole, Omeprazole etc are prescribed by the doctor to treat the condition.
- Topical swallowed steroids are taken to treat eosinophilic esophagitis.
- In severe cases, surgery is recommended. Based on the severity of the condition, open or laparoscopic surgery is performed.
The following are the preventive measures of esophagitis.
- Quit smoking
- Avoid having spicy food, each food rich in fiber
- Exercise regularly
- Do not wear clothes which are tight near the neck
- Drink plenty of water
- Chew the food properly