Esophagitis is defined as swelling, inflammation or irritation of the esophagus. Generally, the esophagus becomes inflamed.
Various factors can add up to an increased risk for esophagitis such as:
- Reflux of the stomach contents – this is the usual cause of esophagitis
- Excessive episodes of vomiting – the acid present in vomit can irritate the esophagus and can even result to inflammation
- Obstruction due to pills – once a pill is stuck in the esophagus, it causes burning of the esophageal lining. This occurs if there is not enough water or other fluids to wash the pill down.
- Infections – those caused by viruses, bacteria and fungi. These infections are likely to develop among those who have a weakened immune system.
- Chemical injury – if strong chemicals were ingested, the damage to the esophagus can serious or even life-threatening.
- Radiation injury – the radiation treatment in the chest as part of cancer treatment can lead to esophagitis
What are the signs?
The usual indications present include:
- Pain while swallowing
- Difficulty swallowing
- Sensation that there is something stuck in the throat
- Acid reflux
- Burning sensation in the esophagus
- Bleeding that can manifest as blood in the stool or vomit
Management of esophagitis
The treatment for esophagitis is based on the root case. In most cases, it includes the following:
- Certain drugs to lessen the acid if gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is the cause such as H2 blockers or proton pump inhibitors
- Pain medications
- Antibiotics if infection is the cause
- Steroids for inflammation
While under treatment, the doctor might also discuss other measures to lessen the discomfort of the condition.
The individual must avoid the following:
- Spicy foods
- Acidic beverages and foods such as tomato-based products and citrus juices
- Hard foods that can trigger pain in the esophagus upon swallowing such as raw vegetables and nuts
Other measures that must be considered include:
- Eat 5-6 small meals throughout the day instead of 3 large ones.
- Stick with soft foods such as applesauce, puddings, custards and soups
- Drink beverages using a straw
- Take small bites of food and properly chew before swallowing
- Raise the head of the bed 8-10 inches or sleep on a wedge pillow or cushion to keep the stomach contents from moving up the esophagus while sleeping