Esophagitis involves inflammation or irritation of the esophagus. It is important to note that the esophagus is the tube that transports food from the throat down to the stomach.
The condition is typically triggered by acid reflux, bacterial or viral infections and side effects of certain medications. The treatment and outlook is based on the exact cause of the condition. Healthy individuals improve with proper treatment in 2-4 weeks. As for those with a weakened immune system or have a current infection, recovery might be longer.
Types of esophagitis
- Eosinophilic – this develops due to the high level of white blood cells in the esophagus
- Reflux – this is due to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Drug-induced – this occurs if an individual is using certain medications with inadequate water
- Infectious – this is a rare type and can be triggered by viruses, bacteria, parasites or fungi
What are the indications?
- Difficulty swallowing
- Sore throat
- Pain when swallowing
- Acid reflux
- Hoarse voice
- Chest pain
- Abdominal pain
- Diminished appetite
What are the risk factors?
- Hiatal hernia
- Weakened immune system
- Surgery to the chest region
- Radiation therapy of the chest
- Chronic vomiting
- Medications used to prevent organ transplant rejection
- Cigarette and alcohol use
- Aspirin and anti-inflammatory medications
- Family history of esophagitis or allergies
Always bear in mind that the chances of developing esophagitis are low if the immune system is healthy.
The treatment is based on the specific cause of the symptoms. The commonly used medications include:
- Antiviral medications
- Antifungal medications
- Pain medications
- Oral steroids
- Proton pump inhibitors
In case food allergies are responsible for the condition, it is vital to identify the trigger foods and eliminate them from the diet. The common food triggers include citrus, tomatoes, spicy food, onions, alcohol, caffeine, chocolate and mint.
The symptoms can be relieved by avoiding spicy and acidic foods and beverages as well as hard or raw foods. It is recommended to take smaller bites and chew food properly. Alcohol and tobacco must be avoided since they increase the inflammation and suppress the immune system.
Surgery that aims on dilating the esophagus might be required if it has significantly narrowed and causes the clogging of food.
If esophagitis is due to medications, it is vital to increase the intake of water, use a liquid variant of the medication or take a different medication. The individual should avoid lying down for 30 minutes after using a medication in oral form.