What is Esophagitis?

Madeleine A.

Esophagitis refers to swelling or inflammation of the esophagus. The esophagus is the tube that connects the posterior portion of the oral cavity or mouth to the stomach. Esophagitis is commonly caused by irritating stomach acids which can migrate to the esophagus because of acid reflux disease. In acid reflux disease, the lower esophageal sphincter cannot work effectively to prevent backflow of stomach acids into the esophagus and throat.

Swelling or inflammation of the esophagus is referred to as esophagitis.
Swelling or inflammation of the esophagus is referred to as esophagitis.

Occasionally, other factors, such as ingesting irritating medications, can contribute to this condition. Excessive or prolonged vomiting, vitamin C supplementation and chest radiation may also promote the disorder. Sometimes, patients who have weakened immune function may encounter esophagitis. In these individuals, the condition is often caused by the presence of infection. Certain infections may predispose the patient to an increase in the inflammatory process, including inflammation of the esophagus.

Ingesting irritating medications may cause esophagitis.
Ingesting irritating medications may cause esophagitis.

Typically, symptoms include painful and difficult swallowing, oral lesions, and perhaps heartburn. The patient may notice redness and sores in the back of the throat, and a strong breath odor may be present. In addition, excessive saliva may be noticed because patients with esophagitis often are unable to effectively swallow their own saliva. This is more pronounced in elderly or extremely ill patients.

Excessive vomiting may promote esophagitis.
Excessive vomiting may promote esophagitis.

Generally, treatment depends on what is causing the condition. If acid reflux, or gastroesophageal reflux, disease is to blame, the physician may recommend the use of a medication to reduce or inhibit the production of stomach acid. When less stomach acid is produced, it is less likely to migrate to the esophagus and cause irritation. If an infection is causing inflammation of the esophagus, antibiotics may be prescribed. Often, when the infection is resolved, esophageal inflammation will also resolve.

People with esophagitis may experience difficulty swallowing.
People with esophagitis may experience difficulty swallowing.

If symptoms of esophageal inflammation and irritation are not treated, complications may arise. Complications, such as difficulty swallowing, may occur. Difficulty in swallowing due to an inflamed esophagus may be so severe that the patient may be unable to eat or drink. This may ultimately lead to dehydration and malnutrition. Esophagitis may also contribute to esophageal scarring. Scarring of the esophagus may promote strictures that can severely limit the patient's ability to swallow medication or food.

Rarely, untreated inflammation of the esophagus caused by chronic acid reflux may contribute to a condition called Barrett's esophagitis, or Barrett's esophagus. This condition may predispose the patient to esophageal cancer. Patients who experience acid reflux disease and symptoms of chronic heartburn should get treatment to decrease the risk of Barrett's and therefore lessen the incidence of cancer.

With acid reflux disease, the lower esophageal sphincter fails to prevent back flow of stomach acids from entering the esophagus.
With acid reflux disease, the lower esophageal sphincter fails to prevent back flow of stomach acids from entering the esophagus.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


In high school, mean kids with their unbridled opinions caused my slightly overweight friend to become bulimic. Because she vomited several times a day, she developed esophagitis.

Her esophagus became inflamed, and it even tore in a few places. It developed lesions, and to add to her issues, eating became painful.

Vomiting also became unpleasant. She began to vomit blood, so she sought treatment. It took awhile for her to get back to a pattern of normal eating and a good state of health, but eventually, her esophagus did heal.


I experience heartburn on a regular basis, but I’ve never had the severe symptoms associated with esophagitis. I cannot imagine being nearly unable to swallow because of swelling there. It must be a panicky feeling!

My heartburn is painful, but after reading this, I know that it doesn’t even compare to what could happen. I will be sure to take medication for it daily, because I don’t want to end up with esophagitis, or even cancer.


People with esophagitis can feel like they are choking as they swallow, even though their airways are not actually blocked. This is because the esophagus is having trouble moving the food downward to the stomach, so it just gets caught there sometimes.

My friend was eating some pasta when he experienced this. At first, he really thought he was choking, but then he found that he could still breathe. He had to go to the emergency room for help getting the lodged pasta out of his esophagus.

They did some sort of procedure to enlarge his esophagus. They said it had become too narrow to allow food to easily pass through it. He hasn’t had any problems since the enlargement.


My friend has had esophagus problems her entire life. She has had a lot of acid reflux, and it has damaged her esophagus.

At one point, she had an inflamed esophagus that she said felt like having a sore throat all the way down her chest. The difficulty swallowing that usually comes with a sore throat extended the entire length of her esophagus, and it got to where she couldn’t eat.

She had surgery to fix the acid reflux. The surgeon wrapped the upper portion of her stomach around part of her esophagus. He then stitched it there to help the sphincter prevent the reflux.


It seems that reflux esophagitis is becoming very common. I have several friends who are on medication for heartburn and esophagitis and have been taking this for quite some time.

One of my friends told me that her doctor recommended she stay away from the three C's. This stood for carbonation, caffeine and chocolate.

I love all of those things and would have a hard time giving up any of them - and especially all three of them at once. I know that diet plays a key role in esophagitis, so this would be worth a try if it meant a difference in my health.

It seems like the carbonation in soda pop can be just as addicting as caffeine, but I have heard many times how this is not good for you. There is something about carbonation that can have an aggravating effect on esophagitis.


I was not surprised when the doctor told me I had esophagitis. I had been experiencing esophagitis symptoms for a few months before I went to get it checked out.

I knew this could lead to something more serious, so wanted to know what I was dealing with. I had heartburn on a frequent basis and some nausea from time to time.

Once I started on some medication, my symptoms went away pretty quickly. I know it is not good to stay on those medications long term, so began weaning myself off of them after several weeks.

Most days I do OK without any heartburn. If I eat a heavy meal late at night or something that is greasy or spicy, I usually feel it. I keep some over the counter medication on hand to use for those times.

I try to watch my diet so that my esophasgitis symptoms don't return or turn into something like erosive esophagitis which can be much more serious.

Post your comments
Forgot password?