Esophagitis is an inflammation and swelling of the esophagus. It is most often caused by acid-containing stomach contents refluxing back up into the esophagus. The most significant cause of acid reflux is gastro esophageal reflux disease. Other causes of reflux are hernias, vomiting medications and surgery.

Esophagitis can be caused by other conditions also. These include an infection that can develop in individuals with weakened immune systems, such as caused by HIV or certain medications such as corticosteroids. The infection can be caused by viruses, including herpes and cytomegalovirus, and fungi or yeast, especially Candida infections.

Whether the condition is caused by the irritation from reflux of the stomach contents or by infection, in either case the tissues of the esophagus become inflamed. If left untreated, this condition can become very uncomfortable, and can lead to difficulty when swallowing, ulcers in the esophagus, or scarring of the esophagus. In rare instances, a condition known as Barrett’s esophagus may develop which is a risk factor for cancer of the esophagus.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is Esophagitis?
A.  Esophagitis is an inflammation and swelling of the esophagus. The lining of the esophagus becomes inflamed because of an infection or something that has irritated the lining.

Q.  What is the cause of esophagitis?
A.   Several factors can cause esophagitis, including;

  • Candida: Yeast infection of the esophagus.
  • Herpes: This viral infection can develop in the esophagus when the body’s immune system is weak.

Irritation causing esophagitis may be caused by any for the following:

  • GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease)
  • Vomiting
  • Surgery
  • Medications like aspirin and anti-inflammatories
  • Taking a large pill with too little water
  • Swallowing a toxic substance
  • Hernias
  • Radiation injury


Q. What are symptoms of Esophagitis?
A.  Symptoms of esophagitis include:

    • Difficult and/or painful swallowing
    • Heartburn
    • Mouth sores
    • A feeling of something being stuck in the throat
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting


Q. How is Esophagitis diagnosed?
A.  There are several procedures that can be performed to test for esophagitis. These tests include:

        • Upper endoscopy: This procedure uses a long flexible tube to look at the esophagus.
        • Biopsy: During this procedure, a small sample of tissue is removed for further testing.
        • Upper GI series: This procedure uses x-rays to enable your physician to view any abnormalities.
        • Culture of Esophagus: This procedure tests the esophagus for bacterial and viral infections in the esophagus.


Q. How is Esophagitis treated?
A.   Treatment for corrosive esophagitis involves reducing pain and making patient comfortable. Treatment and management consists of:

          • Antibiotics, antifungal or antiviral to treat any infections
          • Pain medications that can be gargled or swallowed
          • Corticosteroid medication to reduce inflammation
          • Antacids to neutralize gastric acidity and possibly increase lower esophageal sphincter competence
          • Use of H2 (Histamine-2 receptor agonist) agonist to reduce stomach acidity
          • Use of cholinergic agonists to increase sphincter pressure

While being treated for esophagitis, there are certain steps you can take to help limit discomfort.

        • Elevating the head of the bed
        • Avoid certain drugs like anticholingerics
        • Avoid spicy foods
        • Avoid hard foods
        • Avoid acidic foods and beverages
        • Add more soft foods to your diet
        • Take small bites and chew food thoroughly
        • If swallowing becomes increasingly difficult, try tilting your head upward so the food flows to the back of the throat before swallowing.
        • Drink liquids through a straw
        • Avoid alcohol and tobacco


Q. What are complications of Esophagitis?
A.  If esophagitis is not treated then it can cause:

        • Sever Discomfort
        • Dehydration and Malnutrition because of difficulty swallowing
        • Scarring of the Esophagus
        • In rare cases Barrett’s Esophagus which can lead to cancer of the esophagus.


Q. What are some questions to ask my physician?
A.  Here is a list of questions that might be helpful to ask your physician:

        • What is the cause of the esophagitis?
        • Is it gastroesophageal reflux?
        • What treatment do you recommend?
        • Would antacids help?
        • What can be done to minimize the discomfort?
        • Would surgery be necessary?



Additional Resources

This report is intended for patient education and information only. It does not constitute advice, nor should it be taken to suggest or replace professional medical care from your physician. Your treatment options may vary, depending upon medical history and current condition. Only your physician and you can determine your best option.