Esophagitis is a condition in which the lining of the esophagus becomes swollen, inflamed, or irritated. The esophagus is the tube that leads from your mouth to the stomach. It is also called the food pipe.
Esophagitis is often caused by stomach fluid that flows back into the food pipe. The fluid contains acid, which irritates the tissue. This problem is called gastroesophageal reflux (GERD). An autoimmune disorder called eosinophilic esophagitis also causes this condition.
The following increase your risk for this condition:
People who have a weakened immune system may develop infections. Infections may lead to swelling of the food pipe. Infection may be due to:
The infection or irritation may cause the food pipe to become inflamed. Sores called ulcers may form.
Symptoms may include:
The doctor may perform the following tests:
Treatment depends on the cause. Common treatment options are:
You should stop taking medicines that damage the lining of the esophagus. Take your pills with plenty of water. Avoid lying down immediately after taking the pill.
Most of the time, the disorders that cause swelling and inflammation of the food pipe, respond to treatment.
If not treated, this condition may cause severe discomfort. Scarring (stricture) of the food pipe may develop. This can cause swallowing problems.
A condition called Barrett esophagus (BE) can develop after years of GERD. Rarely, BE may lead to cancer of the food pipe.
Call your health care provider if you have:
Reviewed By: Michael M. Phillips, MD, Clinical Professor of Medicine, The George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.