Inflammation of the esophagus or esophagitis is caused by poor eating habits, stress or a weak sphincter at the junction with the stomach. The sensitive mucous membrane is damaged and can cause pain and discomfort when swallowing. Esophagitis can be treated with diet, medication, or, in severe cases, with surgery.
What is esophagitis?
Esophagitis occurs when the lining of the esophagus becomes inflamed. Esophagitis can be acute or chronic. In most cases, the lower third of the esophagus is affected, where it connects to the stomach. For definition of heat exhaustion in English, please visit acronymmonster.com.
The esophagus is a tube of muscle and tissue that connects the mouth to the stomach. The skin of the esophagus consists of different layers of tissue. The outermost is a muscular layer, followed by a connective tissue layer, which contains glands for the production of mucus.
This mucous substance is released onto the innermost layer to help food slide down when swallowed, but also to protect the mucous membrane. If stomach acid often flows back from the stomach into the esophagus or if fungi, viruses or accidentally swallowed sharp objects penetrate, this can lead to esophagitis.
Esophagitis can have a variety of causes. The most common trigger is a lack of closure of the transition to the stomach. Normally, the lower esophageal sphincter (esophageal sphincter) prevents stomach acid from flowing into the esophagus. But if the muscle is damaged or too weak, if too much stomach acid is produced due to improper diet, or if there is a tumor in the stomach, then it is possible that the closure no longer works properly.
Obesity or pregnancy can also trigger increased pressure on the gastric obstruction. The stomach acid then flows into the esophagus and attacks the sensitive mucous membrane there. The result is an esophagitis.
Another possible cause is accidental ingestion of sharp objects or corrosive substances, or improper intake of medication. A fungal infection or viral invasion can also cause esophagitis.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
Esophagitis can present with a variety of symptoms. Typically, heartburn and acid regurgitation are associated with severe pain on swallowing. Esophagitis is also often associated with an unpleasant taste in the mouth. Those affected have a correspondingly strong bad breath and an overall very dry, slightly irritated mouth.
Symptoms can cause sleep disturbances. This often results in further health problems, such as exhaustion, moodiness and difficulty concentrating. Those affected also describe a feeling of pressure behind the breastbone, which, like the symptoms mentioned, occurs mainly after meals.
In particular, the consumption of sweet or spicy foods leads to an acute increase in symptoms, along with additional pain in the esophagus. Severe pain can also occur in the stomach area, which increases when touched and after eating. The inflammation can also cause a dry cough, hoarseness, nausea and vomiting, and fever.
The symptoms increase when lying down and when pressing or during physical exertion. If the esophagitis is treated early, the symptoms subside within a week. If there is no treatment, the signs of the disease intensify and there is a risk that the inflammation will spread to the lungs and airways.
Diagnosis & History
The first symptoms of esophagitis are burning in the esophagus and pain when swallowing. The swallowing movements are difficult, you have the feeling that the chyme is scratching the esophagus, is stuck and cannot move quickly down to the stomach.
Sometimes it also burns behind the breastbone. You have a bad taste in your mouth and often have to belch sour. The latter is the sign of an insufficient seal to the stomach, the most common cause of esophagitis. Symptoms usually appear after eating or drinking carbonated beverages. Pain and pressure in the upper abdomen can also be felt when bending over or during strenuous activities.
In order to check whether an esophagitis is present, the doctor will first ask about the medical history. As a rule, a gastroscopy is then carried out, in which the condition of the mucous membrane is examined. In addition, the acidity in the esophagus is measured using a probe inserted through the nose.
An untreated inflammation of the esophagus (esophagitis) can take a chronic course. The constant or intermittent inflammation often leads to the formation of ulcers. These narrow the esophagus and become noticeable through difficulty in swallowing, a feeling of pressure behind the breastbone and cramping pain.
A feared complication is the so-called beret esophagus: this change in the mucous membrane associated with a narrowing in the lower area of the esophagus represents a preliminary stage of esophageal cancer. A carcinoma of the esophagus tends to grow into the surrounding tissue and to form metastases in the lymph nodes and other organs.
If the lining of the esophagus is severely irritated due to chronic inflammation or tissue growth, it may bleed. If large areas are affected, the bleeding can become life-threatening. Drinking acids or bases can cause acute esophagitis, which requires immediate intensive care treatment. In the worst case, the wall of the esophagus tears and fluid gets into the chest – the resulting medianitis can be fatal.
Even if a chemical burn is treated successfully, scarring is often inevitable, and depending on its severity, it can significantly affect food intake. When treating inflammation of the esophagus, certain medications may increase the risk of developing osteoporosis or kidney disease as a side effect.
When should you go to the doctor?
For the layperson, esophagitis is often indistinguishable from normal heartburn. Therefore, going to the doctor is recommended for several reasons if burning or pain is felt in the esophagus. On the one hand, when a burning sensation cannot be associated with a specific event, such as the consumption of spicy food or alcohol, or stressful experiences.
On the other hand, if pain or burning persists for a longer period of time and cannot be completely eliminated with home remedies or over-the-counter medicines. A change in the nature of the pain or a sudden significant change in symptoms is also a reason for a visit to the doctor. Anyone who has ever had an esophagitis is also in good hands with a doctor in order to rule out a possible recurrence or to identify it at an early stage.
The contact person for esophagitis is the family doctor, and subsequently also the internist and gastroenterologist. A naturopath can also be consulted if the chronic inflammation keeps recurring and should be treated with naturopathic remedies. However, the basis of any therapy is solid diagnostics. It is therefore important to go to the doctor at an early stage when the symptoms begin, in order to diagnose esophagitis or even just heartburn. In both cases, early action is optimal for successful therapy of the symptoms.
Treatment & Therapy
There are several ways to treat esophagitis. First of all, you should pay attention to the right diet and, if necessary, change your diet. It is particularly important to pay attention to which foods cause the symptoms and then replace them with more tolerable ones. Carbonated drinks, sour fruit juices, black coffee and alcohol should be consumed as little as possible.
The last meal should not be eaten right before bedtime. Several small meals are also better tolerated than a few large ones. You can also treat esophagitis with medication. Active ingredients are used that bind the stomach acid and thus take away its corrosive properties. There are also acid formation inhibitors that reduce the production of gastric acid.
If the esophagitis is very severe, surgical interventions are available for treatment. The lower sphincter muscle is narrowed in an endoscopic procedure. For this purpose, instruments are inserted through small incisions in the upper abdomen up to the gastric port, with which a kind of cuff is then placed around the port of the stomach and the sphincter. As a result, the sphincter is contracted and can completely close the stomach again. There are other surgical techniques, but the one above is the most successful for esophagitis.
In order to prevent esophagitis, it is advisable to pay attention to a healthy diet. Both well-tolerated food and the right amount of food should be on the menu. Excessive consumption of alcohol and excessive seasoning should be avoided. A balanced, low-stress life, a balanced diet and enough time to eat are the best measures to prevent esophagitis.
In the case of esophagitis, patents have few follow-up measures available. First and foremost, an early diagnosis and subsequent treatment should be carried out so that complications and the development of other symptoms do not occur in the further course. The sooner a doctor is contacted about esophagitis, the better the further course of this disease is usually.
Therefore, a doctor should be contacted as soon as the first symptoms and signs appear. In general, the cause of esophagitis should be avoided entirely, although in some cases the underlying disease must first be identified and treated. Only then can this inflammation itself be completely healed. Most of those affected are dependent on taking various medications.
The prescribed dosage and regular intake should always be observed in order to counteract the symptoms correctly. Likewise, if anything is unclear or if you have any questions, you should always consult a doctor first. Those affected should have regular examinations and check-ups carried out by a doctor during treatment in order to identify further damage at an early stage. The further course of esophagitis cannot generally be predicted, although in some cases the disease can reduce the life expectancy of the person affected.
You can do that yourself
In many cases, esophagitis is caused or aggravated by the behavior of the patient. Therefore, it is easily accessible to self-help, although serious cases always require treatment by a doctor ( family doctor or internist ).
The rising of gastric acid into the esophagus, the so-called reflux, is often the cause of the inflammatory disease. Reflux can be positively influenced by the patient by not eating too large portions at meals and avoiding sweet and spicy foods in the acute phase of the inflammation. The consumption of alcohol and nicotine also has an unfavorable effect and is not advisable in the case of esophagitis or a disposition to this disease.
The risk of reflux is particularly high when lying on your back. The position when sleeping is therefore best chosen so that the upper body is slightly higher. Eating right before bedtime is not advisable. Home remedies can also be used as part of self-help. A handful of oatmeal, which is swallowed dry and can bind the acid, often helps against heartburn.
Be careful with drinks too. In addition to alcohol, sugary drinks, coffee and carbonated water are also unfavorable. It is best for those affected to use still mineral water or unsweetened herbal teas. Orange juice is also not advisable because of the fruit acid.