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Esophagitis is a term used to indicate any inflammation, swelling or irritation of the esophagus. 

What causes erosive esophagitis?

There are several factors that contribute to an increased risk of developing erosive esophagitis.

Reflux of stomach contents – refluxed stomach contents into the esophagus is the most common cause of erosive esophagitis. The most common condition to cause reflux is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Other causes of reflux can include pregnancy, obesity, smoking, alcohol, caffeinated beverages and fatty or spicy foods.

Excessive vomiting – the acid contained in vomit can irritate the esophagus; excessive vomiting can lead to inflammation. 

Pills getting stuck – if a pill gets stuck in the esophagus, it can cause burning of the esophageal lining. This can be caused when not enough water or other fluid is used to wash the pill down. It may also occur when the esophagus is narrowed by scarring or strictures, or the esophagus doesn’t contract properly, such as with a motility disorder.

Infections – These include infections caused by viruses such as herpes and cytomegalovirus, fungi and bacteria. Individuals with weakened immune systems can develop infections more often. 

Injury from chemicals – if strong chemicals are ingested, such as drain cleaners, injury to the esophagus can be very severe; it can also be life-threatening. 

Radiation injury – radiation treatment in the chest of the neck area as part of cancer treatment can cause erosive esophagitis.

What are the symptoms of erosive esophagitis?

  • Difficulty when swallowing
  • Pain when swallowing
  • Feeling like something is stuck in the throat
  • Burning sensation in the esophagus
  • Acid reflux or heartburn
  • Bleeding, either as blood in vomit or in stools

How is erosive esophagitis diagnosed?

A thorough physical exam will be performed as well as going over your medical history before having a diagnostic test. These tests can include:

  • Endoscopy
  • Barium x-rays, which are taken in combination with a special dye that is swallowed
  • Biopsy of the inflamed tissue
  • Culture of the esophagus

How is erosive esophagitis treated?

Treatment depends on the cause and may include:

  • Medications to reduce acid if GERD is the cause
  • Antibiotics if an infection is the cause
  • Steroid medication for inflammation
  • Pain medication

Please talk to your physician or schedule a consultation at our Center for Esophageal Diseases to determine the best approach for you. ​