Narrowing of the esophagus or esophageal stenosis is one of the less dangerous complications. However, if left untreated, not only can it become dangerous itself, it can also be a sign of other diseases. In this respect, the narrowing of the esophagus requires immediate medical treatment in any case.
What is esophageal narrowing?
Strictly speaking, the human digestive system begins in the stomach area, where the gastric juices contained there pre-digest the chewed meal and prepare it for absorption in the small and large intestine. For definition of hematopneumothorax in English, please visit acronymmonster.com.
In order for the meal to get there, it has to pass through the esophagus. The narrowing of the esophagus, doctors speak of narrowing of the esophagus or esophageal stenosis, is less dangerous on its own or at least can be treated easily, but it can be an indication of the presence of other underlying diseases.
As the name suggests, esophageal narrowing is a spatial narrowing of the esophagus with the result that meals can no longer flow easily into the gastrointestinal area. Difficult swallowing in order to break through the constriction with pressure is one of the typical symptoms of esophageal stenosis.
In advanced cases, the food that was thought to have been swallowed flows unintentionally back into the mouth and throat of the person affected.
Several factors can be considered as possible causes of esophageal narrowing. According to medical observations, narrowing of the esophagus very often occurs in connection with reflux esophagitis. This is the unnatural backflow of acidic gastric juices into the esophagus.
The result is inflammation of the esophagus, which, unlike the gastric mucosa, is not designed for the pH value of the gastric juices. Finally, the esophagus reacts to the caustic gastric juices with inflammatory reactions. And it is precisely this inflammation that causes the esophageal narrowing.
But formations from the outside, i.e. outside the esophagus, can also exert pressure on the esophagus and ultimately cause a narrowing. Finally, it must be examined whether a tumor in the esophagus is the reason for the narrowing. Congenital malformations of the esophagus, on the other hand, are among the rare causes of esophageal narrowing.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
The first signs of a narrowing of the esophagus are difficulties in swallowing. Patients complain of pain and feelings of pressure when swallowing, and food particles often get into the trachea and lead to irritation or inflammation. In the further course, the narrowing of the esophagus can lead to throat infections, heartburn and severe pain.
The pain is usually stabbing to throbbing. Difficulty swallowing often leads to loss of appetite and, as a result, reduced food intake and deficiency symptoms. Eventually, it can lead to serious complications such as pneumonia and lung failure, most commonly associated with hoarseness, loss of voice, and coughing up blood. At that point at the latest, fever, malaise and other general symptoms appear, the type and severity of which depends on the respective complication.
Severe esophageal stenosis can be fatal. The disease is usually not visible externally. Visible redness and swelling in the mouth and throat can only occur later as a result of side effects. Progressive pneumonia quickly leads to a sickly appearance with pale skin and sunken eye sockets.
If the narrowing of the esophagus is treated early, the symptoms subside completely within a few days to weeks. Late effects or renewed narrowing of the esophagus are not to be expected.
Diagnosis & History
The first indication of the presence of a narrowing of the esophagus is the anamnesis: asking the patient about their symptoms. In view of the fact that serious illnesses that require immediate treatment can also be considered as possible causes, a simple anamnesis should not stop there.
Further treatment measures include ultrasound to detect possible abnormalities in the mediastinum and esophagus. If the suspicion goes in the direction of the presence of an inflammation, the esophagus can be examined during a gastroscopy.
This can always be assumed if the patient’s blood count shows an increased value of white blood cells, which indicates the presence of inflammation as the cause of narrowing of the esophagus.
Esophageal narrowing can lead to aspiration, regurgitation, pain, and difficulty swallowing—symptoms that can lead to serious complications. Regurgitation can lead to inflammation and secondary diseases of the esophagus and nasopharynx. The symptom promotes complications such as heartburn and throat infections. As a result of the often severe pain, there is often a reduced food intake.
This can result in deficiency symptoms and dehydration. Difficulty swallowing increases the risk of such complications and can also lead to aspiration. Aspiration can lead to suffocation, especially in children. If the foreign body remains in the lungs, this can result in pneumonia. Recurring aspirations can result in the collapse of the lungs or even lung failure.
If the course is severe, an esophageal narrowing ends fatally for the person concerned. The treatment itself usually proceeds without major complications. However, prescribed antibiotics can cause symptoms such as headaches, gastrointestinal problems and skin irritations. Rarely do such preparations also trigger allergic reactions or cause serious complications in interaction with other medications or diseases. During a surgical procedure there is a risk of injury to the esophagus.
When should you go to the doctor?
A narrowing of the esophagus should always be treated by a doctor. If left untreated, it can lead to serious complications and symptoms that can have a negative impact on life expectancy and the quality of life of those affected. An early diagnosis of esophageal narrowing always has a positive effect on the further course of this disease.
A doctor should be consulted if the person concerned suffers from severe swallowing difficulties that do not go away on their own. This can also lead to severe heartburn, whereby the throat and mouth can be affected by infections. A severe loss of appetite can also indicate narrowing of the esophagus and must be examined by a doctor if it persists for a longer period of time without any particular reason. Furthermore, many patients also suffer from hoarseness or even coughing up blood.
Esophageal narrowing can be diagnosed and treated by an ENT doctor or an internist.
Treatment & Therapy
The cause of a narrowing of the esophagus is rarely found in a congenital malformation of the esophagus. For this reason, the medical gold standard is to identify and treat the underlying disease of the esophageal narrowing.
In the case of inflammation of the esophagus, appropriate antibiotics are prescribed after determining the causative agent. By killing the pathogens, the inflammation and thus the esophageal narrowing subsides on its own. On the other hand, if the cause is a tumor, surgical removal of the tumor is the obvious choice. If, contrary to expectations, the narrowing of the esophagus does not subside after treating the underlying disease and if no other causes can be considered, the esophagus must be “inflated”. To do this, an elastic instrument is inserted into the esophagus and inflated.
The aim is to stretch the esophagus mechanically so that food can flow through it again without any problems. Depending on the severity of the narrowing of the esophagus and the need, this treatment measure can be repeated at regular intervals.
Due to the different causes that a narrowing of the esophagus can have, there can be no general recommendation on how to prevent it. While the underlying diseases such as the formation of a tumor can neither be foreseen nor effectively prevented, prophylaxis of a narrowing of the esophagus is completely out of the question.
The same applies to non-tumorous formations in the midfield with an idiopathic background. Inflammation of the esophagus caused by pathogens alone can be prevented by adhering to the general rules of a conscious diet in connection with sufficient physical exercise.
They are regarded as a guarantee that the immune system is strengthened and that, even in the event of infection with pathogens, there is no outbreak of inflammation and thus no narrowing of the esophagus.
In most cases, those affected with a narrowing of the esophagus only have very few measures or options for direct follow-up care. For this reason, this disease must be diagnosed and treated at an early stage so that complications or other symptoms do not arise in the further course.
As a rule, it cannot heal on its own, so the person affected should consult a doctor as soon as the first symptoms and signs of this disease appear. In most cases, the narrowing of the esophagus can be alleviated by taking various medications. However, the person concerned should always take the medication regularly and ensure that the dosage is correct in order to limit the symptoms.
When taking antibiotics, it should also be noted that they should not be taken together with alcohol. Furthermore, regular checks of the esophagus are very useful in order to identify and treat further damage at an early stage. The narrowing of the esophagus does not always reduce the life expectancy of the person affected. However, the further course depends heavily on the severity and the cause of the disease, so that a general prediction cannot usually be made.
You can do that yourself
In the case of a narrowing of the esophagus, any strain in the area of the throat should be avoided. This could result in further inconveniences that are of little use in the healing process.
The absorption of the food supply is to be optimized and adapted to the possibilities of the organism. As a result, meals should be broken up in the mouth. In acute phases in particular, it is recommended to eat soups or pulpy foods. The grinding process of the teeth should be intensified so that no larger pieces of food can get into the throat. In addition, irritation of the throat must be avoided completely. The consumption of nicotineis to be avoided both actively and passively. Places where there are gases or dyes in the air should not be visited. An oxygen-rich environment and good ventilation of the rooms is important so that the breathing flow is optimized. When staying in cold environments, the neck area must be adequately protected by wearing clothing.
Caution should be exercised when dealing with people who have a viral disease. The transmission of the disease can lead to complications esophagus, from which the affected person should protect himself. Heavy use of the voice should also be avoided. The processes could cause irritation in the throat area.