Plummer-Vinson syndrome is a condition that can occur in people with long-term (chronic) iron deficiency anemia. People with this condition have problems swallowing due to small, thin growths of tissue that partially block the upper food pipe (esophagus).
The cause of Plummer-Vinson syndrome is unknown. Genetic factors and a lack of certain nutrients (nutritional deficiencies) may play a role. It is a rare disorder that can be linked to cancers of the esophagus and throat. It is more common in women.
Symptoms may include:
Your health care provider will do an exam to look for abnormal areas on your skin and nails.
You may have an upper GI series or upper endoscopy to look for abnormal tissue in the food pipe. You may have tests to look for anemia or iron deficiency.
Taking iron supplements may improve the swallowing problems.
If supplements do not help, the web of tissue can be widened during upper endoscopy. This will allow you to swallow food normally.
People with this condition generally respond to treatment.
Devices used to stretch the esophagus (dilators) may cause a tear. This can lead to bleeding.
Plummer-Vinson syndrome has been linked to esophageal cancer.
Call your provider if:
Getting enough iron in your diet may prevent this disorder.
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.