Esophagitis

Esophagitis is inflammation of the esophagus. It can involve swelling, soreness, and pain in the esophagus. This condition can make it difficult and painful to swallow.

CAUSES

Most causes of esophagitis are not serious. Many different factors can cause esophagitis, including:

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This is when acid from your stomach flows up into the esophagus.

  • Recurrent vomiting.

  • An allergic-type reaction.

  • Certain medicines, especially those that come in large pills.

  • Ingestion of harmful chemicals, such as household cleaning products.

  • Heavy alcohol use.

  • An infection of the esophagus.

  • Radiation treatment for cancer.

  • Certain diseases such as sarcoidosis, Crohn's disease, and scleroderma. These diseases may cause recurrent esophagitis.

SYMPTOMS

  • Trouble swallowing.

  • Painful swallowing.

  • Chest pain.

  • Difficulty breathing.

  • Nausea.

  • Vomiting.

  • Abdominal pain.

DIAGNOSIS

Your caregiver will take your history and do a physical exam. Depending upon what your caregiver finds, certain tests may also be done, including:

  • Barium X-ray. You will drink a solution that coats the esophagus, and X-rays will be taken.

  • Endoscopy. A lighted tube is put down the esophagus so your caregiver can examine the area.

  • Allergy tests. These can sometimes be arranged through follow-up visits.

TREATMENT

Treatment will depend on the cause of your esophagitis. In some cases, steroids or other medicines may be given to help relieve your symptoms or to treat the underlying cause of your condition. Medicines that may be recommended include:

  • Viscous lidocaine, to soothe the esophagus.

  • Antacids.

  • Acid reducers.

  • Proton pump inhibitors.

  • Antiviral medicines for certain viral infections of the esophagus.

  • Antifungal medicines for certain fungal infections of the esophagus.

  • Antibiotic medicines, depending on the cause of the esophagitis.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Avoid foods and drinks that seem to make your symptoms worse.

  • Eat small, frequent meals instead of large meals.

  • Avoid eating for the 3 hours prior to your bedtime.

  • If you have trouble taking pills, use a pill splitter to decrease the size and likelihood of the pill getting stuck or injuring the esophagus on the way down. Drinking water after taking a pill also helps.

  • Stop smoking if you smoke.

  • Maintain a healthy weight.

  • Wear loose-fitting clothing. Do not wear anything tight around your waist that causes pressure on your stomach.

  • Raise the head of your bed 6 to 8 inches with wood blocks to help you sleep. Extra pillows will not help.

  • Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicines as directed by your caregiver.

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You have severe chest pain that radiates into your arm, neck, or jaw.

  • You feel sweaty, dizzy, or lightheaded.

  • You have shortness of breath.

  • You vomit blood.

  • You have difficulty or pain with swallowing.

  • You have bloody or black, tarry stools.

  • You have a fever.

  • You have a burning sensation in the chest more than 3 times a week for more than 2 weeks.

  • You cannot swallow, drink, or eat.

  • You drool because you cannot swallow your saliva.

MAKE SURE YOU:

  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.