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A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia [Internet]. Atlanta (GA): A.D.A.M.; 2013.

A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia.

Esophagitis

Inflammation - esophagus

Last reviewed: August 10, 2012.

Esophagitis is a general term for any inflammation, irritation, or swelling of the esophagus, the tube that leads from the back of the mouth to the stomach.

See also: Esophagitis herpes

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Esophagitis is often caused by fluid that contains acid flowing back from the stomach to the esophagus, a condition called gastroesophageal reflux. An autoimmune disorder called eosinophilic esophagitis also causes this condition.

The following increase your risk of esophagitis:

Persons with weakened immune systems due to HIV and certain medications (such as corticosteroids) may develop infections that lead to esophagitis.

Esophageal infection may be due to fungi, yeast (especially Candida infections), or viruses such as herpes or cytomegalovirus.

Symptoms

The infection or irritation may cause the esophagus to become inflamed. Sores called ulcers may form.

Symptoms may include:

  • Cough
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Painful swallowing
  • Heartburn (acid reflux)
  • Hoarseness
  • Sore throat

Signs and tests

The doctor may perform the following tests:

Treatment

Treatment depends on the cause. For reflux disease, you may need medications to reduce acid. Infections will need to be treated with antibiotics.

Expectations (prognosis)

The disorders that cause esophagitis usually respond to treatment.

Complications

If untreated, esophagitis may cause severe discomfort, and eventual scarring (stricture) of the esophagus. This can cause difficulty swallowing food or medications.

A condition called Barrett's esophagus can develop after years of gastroesophageal reflux. Rarely, Barrett's esophagus may lead to cancer of the esophagus.

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of esophagitis.

References

  1. Falk GW, Katzka DA. Diseases of the esophagus. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 140.
  2. Richter JE, Friedenberg FK. Gastroesophageal reflux disease. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 43.

Review Date: 8/10/2012.

Reviewed by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

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The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only — they do not constitute endorsementscof those other sites. © 1997–2011 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

Copyright © 2013, A.D.A.M., Inc.

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch).

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only — they do not constitute endorsementscof those other sites. © 1997–2011 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

Copyright © 2013, A.D.A.M., Inc.

What works?

  • Curcumin for maintenance of remission in ulcerative colitis
    Curcumin is a natural anti‐inflammatory agent that is often used in many chronic inflammatory conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, esophagitis and post‐surgical inflammation. The purpose of this systematic review was to examine the effectiveness and safety of curcumin therapy for the maintenance of remission in patients with ulcerative colitis (UC), a chronic inflammatory condition of the colon. Currently available agents for the management of this condition have been reported to result side effects, particularly when used for prolonged periods. This review includes one randomized trial with a total of 89 participants. All patients received treatment with sulfasalazine or mesalamine (drugs containing 5‐aminosalicylic acid). Fewer patients in the curcumin group relapsed at six months compared to patients who received placebo (e.g. fake drug). However, this result was not statistically significant. Patients in the curcumin group had significantly lower disease activity index and endoscopic index scores at six months than patients in the placebo group. No serious side effects were reported. A total of nine mild side effects were reported in seven patients. These side effects included a sensation of abdominal bulging, nausea, a brief increase in blood pressure, and a brief increase in the number of stools. The results of this systematic review suggest that curcumin may be a safe and effective therapy for maintenance of remission in ulcerative colitis when given as additional therapy with mesalamine or sulfasalazine. Further research is needed to confirm any possible benefit of curcumin for maintenance therapy in ulcerative colitis.
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Figures

  • Esophagus and stomach anatomy.
    Esophagus.

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