When swelling, irritation or inflammation develops in the esophagus the condition is referred to as esophagitis. The esophagus is a muscular tube that aids in the digestive process by delivering food from the mouth to the stomach. Esophagitis often develops as a result of frequent acid reflux, a common symptom of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). Another condition that often causes the onset of esophagitis is an autoimmune disorder called eosinophilic esophagitis.
Esophagitis is a painful condition that often causes chest pain and difficulty swallowing. Other symptoms of the condition include:
- Stomach pain
- Saliva regurgitation
- Decreased appetite
In addition to dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing, esophagitis often causes odynophagia, or pain while swallowing. Chest pain associated with esophagitis often occurs behind the breastbone and is more prevalent while eating and immediately following a meal. Esophagitis may also affect young children that may experience difficulty while feeding and an overall failure to thrive as a result of the condition.
Many of the symptoms associated with esophagitis may be occurring due to other digestive issues and are not necessarily an indication of esophagitis. If the symptoms become prolonged or you are having extreme difficulty eating and swallowing then you should contact your physician. If esophagitis is left untreated it could cause damage to the lining and function of your esophagus. Complications such as esophageal stricture, or a narrowing of the esophagus in addition to the development of esophageal rings, or abnormalities within the tissue of the lining of the esophagus could emerge as a result of untreated esophagitis. Esophagitis can also lead to the development of Barrett’s esophagus, which increases your risk of developing esophageal cancer.
In order to diagnose esophagitis your physician may use one of several exams, such as an endoscopy, barium x-ray, allergy tests or other laboratory tests. Treatment options for esophagitis vary largely depending often on the condition that prompted the development of your esophagitis. For example, if you developed esophagitis as a result of reflux esophagitis than your physician may recommend medication like proton pump inhibitors, or fundoplication which is a surgical procedure. If you developed the condition as a result of eosinophilic esophagitis, however, your physician will likely recommend the use of oral or inhaled steroids and may even suggest a restricted diet to detect a possible allergic reaction. Your exact form of treatment will depend largely on the severity of your esophagitis, as well.
There are certain home remedies that are often successful in preventing the development of esophagitis. These lifestyle factors include:
- Restraining from smoking
- Avoiding allergens
- Employing good pill-taking habits, (i.e. drinking enough water with medications)
- Avoiding foods that induce acid reflux
- Maintaining a healthy weight