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What is esophagitis?
Esophagitis is an inflammation of the lining of the esophagus, the tube that connects the throat to the stomach. If left untreated, this condition can become very uncomfortable, causing difficulty in swallowing and ulcers or scarring of the esophagus. In rare instances, a condition known as Barrett’s esophagus may develop which is a risk factor for cancer of the esophagus.
What causes esophagitis?
Esophagitis is caused by an infection or irritation in the esophagus. An infection can be caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi or diseases that weaken the immune system. Irritation can be caused by any of the following:
A backflow of acid fluid from the stomach to the esophagus (GERD)
Medications such as aspirin and anti-inflammatories
What are the symptoms of esophagitis?
Symptoms of esophagitis include:
Difficult and/or painful swallowing
A feeling of something of being stuck in the throat
If you have any of these symptoms, you should contact your health care provider as soon as possible.
How is esophagitis diagnosed?
Once your doctor has performed a thorough physical examination and reviewed your medical history, there are several tests that can be used to diagnose esophagitis. These include:
Endoscopy: A test in which a long, flexible lighted tube called an endoscope is used to look at the esophagus
Biopsy: During this test, a small sample of the esophageal tissue is removed and then sent to a laboratory to be examined under a microscope.
Barium x-ray: During this procedure, x-rays are taken of the esophagus after the patient drinks a barium solution. Barium coats the lining of the esophagus and shows up white on an x-ray. This characteristic enables doctors to view any abnormalities.
How is esophagitis treated?
Treatment for esophagitis depends on its cause. While medications that block acid production may be recommended, antibiotics may be prescribed for infections for esophagitis caused by acid reflux. In order to treat pain brought on by esophagitis, your doctor may give you an analgesic to gargle and then swallow.
While being treated for esophagitis, there are certain steps you can take to help limit any discomfort that you may feel. These include:
Avoiding spicy foods such as those with pepper, chili powder, curry and nutmeg
Avoiding hard foods such as nuts, crackers and raw vegetables
Avoiding acidic foods and beverages such as tomatoes, oranges, grapefruits and their juices. Instead, try nectars and imitation fruit drinks with vitamin C
Including more soft foods such as applesauce, cooked cereals, mashed potatoes, custards, puddings and high protein shakes in your diet
Taking small bites and chewing your food thoroughly
If swallowing becomes increasingly difficult, try tilting your head upward so the food flows to the back of the throat before swallowing
Drinking liquids through a straw to make swallowing easier
Avoiding alcohol and tobacco
What is the prognosis for esophagitis?
The causes of esophagitis usually respond to treatment, however some causes, such as acid reflux, may require long-term treatment.
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