The oesophagus is a muscular tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach. Oesophagitis or inflammation of this tube can cause tissue damage and lead to symptoms such as chest pain and difficulty swallowing.
Oesophagitis may be caused by regurgitation of acidic stomach contents, infection, allergies, certain medications. Factors that increase acid reflux also increase the risk for oesophagitis include:
- Being overweight
- Going to bed immediately following a meal
- Coffee, tea, chocolate, fizzy drinks and fried food (all the good stuff unfortunately)
- Hiatus hernia
- Weakened immune system
- Alcohol consumption
Oesophagitis can change the structure of the oesophagus if left untreated. It can lead to narrowing of the oesophagus and changes in the lining cells (Barret’s oesophagus) increasing the risk of developing cancer.
It is important to have your doctor evaluate any persistent symptoms of acid reflux or oesophagitis. Along with your symptoms, your doctor will also review your history, diet, medications and allergies. A physical examination is performed and certain tests such as an endoscopy / gastroscopy are often performed to identify any areas of narrowing or other abnormalities. An endoscopy is when a narrow lighted tube with a camera is inserted through your mouth to view your oesophagus and possibly obtain a sample of tissue for laboratory study. Tests may also be performed to identify an infection or allergy.
Treatment depends on the underlying cause as well as the severity of your symptoms or complications. Most people receive medication (antacid) to control acidity and reflux. Changes to eating habits, stopping smoking and weight loss can help relieve symptoms.
In severe cases, a surgical procedure called fundoplication may be performed to strengthen a weak lower oesophageal sphincter or repair a hiatus hernia responsible for reflux. Medications may be administered to treat an infection or reduce an allergic reaction. If oesophagitis has been present for a long time, it may be associated with changes in the oesophagus that need monitoring. Surgery or therapeutic endoscopy may be performed to dilate areas of scarring or narrowing.