What Are Common Conditions That Affect The Esophagus?

A male doctor is speaking to his female patient about the results of her barium X-ray. The patient asked the doctor, What are the common conditions that affect the esophagus?

What Are Common Conditions That Affect The Esophagus?

Have you asked yourself what are the common conditions that affect the esophagus? The first time you ever pay any attention to your esophagus might be when you try to swallow something too large for your system to handle. When that occurs, you are sure to get a wake-up call from your esophagus as it protests against the oversized portion. This is because your esophagus is responsible for carrying food and liquids from your mouth to your stomach. It tends to do its work quietly and without fanfare, but your esophagus can get damaged, diseased, or become inflamed. Knowing about the common conditions that affect the esophagus will help you stay on top of what you can and should do to keep yourself healthy.

In this article, we will explore the common conditions that affect the esophagus, discuss how to recognize when something is wrong with your esophagus, and delve into the diagnostic methods employed by doctors for esophagitis.

How Do You Know When Something is Wrong with Your Esophagus? And How Do You Recognize the Common Conditions That Affect the Esophagus?

Being attentive to potential symptoms allows you to identify early signs of esophageal issues, commonly known as “esophagitis.” It encompasses various underlying conditions affecting the esophagus. The Mayo Clinic explains this in the following terms:

Esophagitis can cause painful, difficult swallowing and chest pain. Many different things can cause esophagitis. Some common causes include stomach acids backing up into the esophagus, infection, oral medicines, and allergies.

You might notice some of the following symptoms appear in your life:

Difficulty swallowing

Swallowed food becomes stuck in the esophagus

Chest pain

Heartburn

Acid regurgitation

Any of these symptoms may be cause for concern that something is wrong with your esophagus. They all should be indicators for you to get into a doctor’s office as soon as you can. That doctor might be capable of diagnosing you right away and helping you find the relief that you require.

How Will a Doctor Diagnose Esophagitis and Know the Common Conditions That Affect the Esophagus?

As esophagitis symptoms overlap with other potential conditions, it is crucial for a trained medical professional to conduct tests and determine the underlying cause of discomfort.

Some of the tests that may be ordered by a doctor include the following:

Endoscopy

This is an outpatient procedure that can be done within a matter of hours. A patient will be put under twilight anesthesia so they don’t feel or remember a thing about the procedure. After that is done, the medical team will insert a thin tube with a camera attached to it down the mouth and into the stomach of the patient. This will allow the team to view the insides of the patient and see if they can identify any potential issues that might be causing the patient the pain and/or discomfort that they are experiencing.

Biopsy

Your doctor may want to perform a biopsy in which they take a tissue sample from your esophagus to identify if there are any concerning issues. The doctor will send that tissue off to a laboratory to allow that lab to perform tests that help narrow down the potential causes of one’s pain and discomfort.

Barium X-Ray

During an X-ray, you may need to drink a barium solution that enhances visibility in the areas surrounding your esophagus. The radiologist can then use the X-ray to identify any specific abnormalities requiring attention.

These tests make it possible both for a doctor to identify potential issues with your esophagus and to help suggest certain treatment options that you might want to pursue. Out of the options mentioned above, a biopsy is likely the most invasive, but even this is not all that invasive.

What are some Common Conditions That Affect the Esophagus?

The common conditions that affect the esophagus are as follows:

Gastroesophageal Reflux (GERD)

Those who experience GERD are individuals in whom acid flows back from the esophagus into the stomach. When this occurs, the acid damages and irritates the lining of the esophagus and can cause pain and discomfort. Most people experience a burning sensation in their chest when they go through something like this.

Certain types of foods and activities can trigger the symptoms of GERD as well. For example, fatty, fried, or spicy foods are all known to make GERD symptoms worse. If you drink alcohol or smoke, you may also be at a heightened risk for experiencing GERD as well. The good news is that there are plenty of over-the-counter (OTC) medications that can be used to help lessen the effects of GERD.

Eosinophilic Esophagitis

Some people have allergic reactions to specific foods that might cause them to experience a condition known as eosinophilic esophagitis. This response is caused by an excessive number of white blood cells in the esophagus causing allergic reactions to certain foods. This allergic reaction could cause swelling of certain parts of the esophagus and might make it difficult to swallow.

Doctors may prescribe a proton pump inhibitor to patients who experience this condition. They may also receive doctor’s orders to change their diet. It is important to follow those dietary restrictions to achieve optimal results as far as treating this condition is concerned.

Esophageal Cancer

The condition that no one wants to hear that they have is esophageal cancer. Worse yet, this form of cancer might not cause an individual to have any kind of symptoms in the early stages of the formation of this cancer. However, those symptoms will likely arise over time, particularly if this is left untreated.

It is difficult to predict who might become impacted by esophageal cancer in their life, but certain risk factors can increase your odds of developing this disease. Those include:

Obesity

Drinking alcohol

Smoking

Gastroesophageal reflux disease

Being male (men are more likely to develop esophageal cancer)

Being between the ages of 45-70

Some of these things are within your control and others are not. You must take steps when possible to keep yourself as safe as you can from the scourges of a disease like this.