Your esophagus carries food down your throat into your stomach. When this organ becomes irritated or inflamed, pain and difficulty swallowing can result. We can help find the cause of your esophagitis and determine the best course of treatment.

What is Esophagitis?

Esophagitis is irritation or inflammation of the esophagus. When this occurs, you may experience pain and discomfort and have a hard time swallowing. A number of conditions can cause esophagitis. Determining the cause can help us develop a course of treatment that will provide relief and prevent long-term damage.

Causes of Esophagitis

The most common cause of esophagitis is GERD. GERD allows stomach acids to move into the esophagus and irritation is often the result.

Esophagitis may also be caused by other conditions that include:

  • hiatal hernia
  • infection
  • radiation therapy
  • vitamin and mineral supplements. Vitamin C, potassium and iron pills are all common causes
  • medications that can irritate the esophagus. These can include medicines for osteoporosis, antibiotics and NSAIDs
  • allergies, especially food allergies
  • diseases that make swallowing difficult

People who have chronic conditions like HIV, kidney disease, and diabetes have a higher risk of esophagitis.

Symptoms of Esophagitis

The most common symptom of esophagitis is heartburn, which is also known as acid indigestion. You may also experience pain when you try to swallow, chest pains, coughs, and trouble swallowing food or drink.

Less common symptoms include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and fever.

Diagnosing Esophagitis

Your doctor will talk to you about your symptoms and any health issues that can contribute to esophagitis. Your doctor may also order tests to look at the esophagus and see if there are physical changes there. These tests can include:

  • endoscopy, a procedure where a thin and flexible tube is inserted into your esophagus.
  • barium swallow. This involves swallowing a chalky liquid that contains barium. This material coats the inside of your esophagus so that it will show up more clearly on an X-ray.

Esophagitis treatment

The proper treatment for esophagitis will depend on its cause. If your esophagitis is caused by GERD, for instance, your doctor will recommend medication, losing weight, changing your diet and changing habits that cause heartburn.

Changing the time of day that you take medications and supplements may ease esophagitis symptoms. Taking medication with food or with a large glass of water can also help.

Medications are often used to treat esophagitis and relieve symptoms. Antacids provide quick relief by neutralizing acid on contact. Other medications reduce your stomach's production of acid. However, use of these medications must be watched closely in certain individuals, as they can interfere with absorption of nutrients.

In some cases, esophagitis that is caused by GERD may be relieved with surgery. Surgeries that strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter can prevent acid from escaping up into the esophagus and causing irritation.

The pain associated with esophagitis can sometimes be similar to the pain associated with other health problems. If you are experiencing persistent or frequent pain, it is important to see a doctor for a firm diagnosis.