Esophagitis is an inflammation of the lining of the esophagus – the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach. The lining of the esophagus becomes inflamed because of an infection or something that has irritated the lining.
Causes include: infections by organisms such as candida, cytomegalovirus (CMV), or herpes simplex; diseases and conditions that weaken the immune system, such as HIV; poorly-controlled diabetes; immunodeficiency disorders; chemotherapy; long-term steroid use; malnutrition; chemicals that are swallowed; pills that become stuck in the esophagus; medications and supplements such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), alendronate, doxycycline, iron, or potassium; gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Conditions such as GERD can irritate and narrow the esophagus.
Difficulty swallowing; throat pain that can range from mild to severe; a feeling that something is stuck in the throat; nausea or vomiting; loss of appetite; reluctance to eat because of pain while swallowing; fast breathing; chest pain; blood in the stools; increased salivation or drooling.
Treatment is directed at the cause and may include: antibiotics, antiviral, or antifungal medications for infections; medications to treat underlying conditions, such as GERD or diabetes; maintaining a healthy lifestyle; surgery to repair the esophagus.
Although prevention of esophagitis is not always possible, there are some wise measures that one can take. Maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding smoking, and limiting alcohol intake may decrease the risk of esophagitis. Other ways to decrease the risk include: eating a nutritious diet; getting adequate rest; practicing safer sex; getting proper treatment for GERD; always taking pills with adequate amounts of liquid and at least 15 minutes before lying down.
If the cause of the esophagitis is an infection, and the infection is treated, the inflammation is likely to improve.
If a chemical such as lye, bleach, or gasoline is ingested, the esophagus can perforate, or rupture. This esophageal perforation can be fatal.
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