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What is esophageal stricture?

The esophagus is a tube that carries food from the back of the throat to the stomach. An esophageal stricture is a narrowing of the esophagus that can cause trouble with swallowing and food getting stuck in the esophagus.

What causes esophageal stricture?

There are multiple causes of esophageal strictures and they can include:

  • Injury from acid and reflux contents from the stomach or GERD
  • An allergic condition called eosinophilic esophagitis
  • Swallowing lye or other corrosive chemicals
  • Pills lodged in the esophagus or medications that can irritate the esophagus
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Previous esophageal surgery may result in a stricture at the anastomosis
  • Previous radiation treatment to the esophagus or a nearby organ
  • Previous endoscopic treatment such as endoscopic resection or ablation

What are the symptoms of esophageal stricture?

Symptoms can include:

  • Progressive swallowing difficulty, starting with solids then eventually liquids;
  • Chest pain or discomfort after eating

Advanced strictures can lead to

  • Dehydration
  • Weight loss
  • Aspiration of foods and liquids causing coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath

How is esophageal stricture diagnosed?

Your physician will review your medical history and a physical exam will be performed. You may be required to swallow barium during an X-ray procedure helping create an overall picture of your esophagus. An endoscopy will likely also be performed to diagnose the cause of the narrowing and possible treatment.

How is esophageal stricture treated?

Most often the management approach depends on the cause of stricture. Often, your physician can perform a mechanical dilation of the esophagus to widen the stricture. Your physician may also advise a special diet of liquids or soft foods as part of the management plan. Additional measures such as Proton pump inhibitors may be recommended to reduce inflammation that may be associated with the formation of certain types of esophageal strictures. ​