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Esophagitis, what is it? Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Esophagitis is characterized by inflammation of the esophagus. This is due, in particular, to gastric or gastro-esophageal reflux and is associated with a deficiency of the esophageal sphincter.

Definition of esophagitis

Esophagitis is characterized by inflammation of the esophagus . It occurs in the context of gastric acid reflux, from the stomach to the esophagus .

The sphincter, located at the level of the lower part of the esophagus, is the muscle normally able to limit these gastric reflux, playing a role of valve. However, in the context of excessive reflux or a deficiency of the sphincter, the acid goes up to the esophagus and then causes inflammation of the throat.

Esophagitis can also be called gastroesophageal reflux .

This reflux can then lead to certain symptoms such as heartburn, an unpleasant taste and persistent in the mouth, or other constraints, variables from one patient to another.

Esophagitis can affect adults, children and pregnant women. The clinical signs may, however, be different depending on the age of the individual.

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Different forms of esophagitis are to be dissociated:

  • the esophagitis infectious , after a viral infection or bacterial
  • the esophagitis caustic , caused by ingestion of products and / or highly acidic foods
  • the esophagitis peptic , directly related to gastroesophageal reflux
  • The esophagitis caused by taking of certain drugs .

 Causes and risk factors of esophagitis

Gastroesophageal reflux ,  the most common form  of oesophagitis , is usually caused by impairedesophageal sphincter function  .

The normal functioning of this muscle is then to open to let the food bowl, from the esophagus to the stomach, and to close in order to avoid the rise of gastric acid.

In the context of peptic esophagitis (gastroesophageal reflux), this function is disturbed. The acid from the stomach enters the esophagus, inducing an inflammation of the esophagus and irritation of the esophageal mucosa.

The exact causes of this sphincter deficiency are not always clear, but some risk factors may be the explanation.

Among these risk factors inducing an increased risk of gastroesophageal reflux, we can name:

  • obesity or overweight
  • a diet too rich in fatty foods
  • tobacco, alcohol, coffee or the abuse of chocolate
  • the pregnancy
  • gastro paresis , a pathology of the stomach inducing difficulties in the management of gastric acid
  • the hiatal hernia , damage to the digestive system
  • some drugs
  • The stress.

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Who is affected by esophagitis

Esophagitis  can affect every individual, regardless of age.

Nevertheless, young children, infants, the elderly and pregnant women can be more impacted.

Evolution and possible complications of esophagitis

If esophagitis  is not managed quickly and treated appropriately, some complications may occur:

  • stenosis , which is scarring and narrowing of the lower part of the esophagus
  • Barrett’s syndrome
  • a  cancer of the esophagus

Persistent gastroesophageal reflux may also lead to other complications, such as:

  • an ulcer  of the esophagus
  • a narrowing of the esophagus

Symptoms of esophagitis

The clinical signs and symptoms most commonly associated with esophagitis are  heartburn from the upper abdomen.

Other symptoms may also be associated with it: an unpleasant and acid taste in the mouth, acid reflux from the stomach into the mouth, pain during ingestion and swallowing, particularly in the context of ingestion of hot foods.

Signs a little less common but possible reflect: hoarseness, persistent cough or night discomfort.

Diagnose esophagitis

The primary clinical diagnosis is based on the identification of symptoms. In this context, the doctor can prescribe the treatment to the patient to alleviate the inconvenience, without necessarily asking for more examinations.

If the diagnosis is not certain, other complementary analyzes may be necessary: ​​endoscopy, manometry, blood test.

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Management and treatment of esophagitis

Before the use of drugs, it is good to know that certain dietary modifications may allow the attenuation of gastric reflux. Among these changes, we can identify: stopping smoking or the removal of fatty foods.

Anti-pain and anti-inflammatory drugs are usually the most common drugs associated with the treatment of esophagitis.

If the patient is overweight, or obesity, weight loss can reduce or even eliminate the gastric reflux.

The symptoms disappear, on average, nearly fifteen days after their appearance. Nevertheless, this depends on the severity of the oesophagitis.

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