By Dr. Jagan Mohan Reddy
In a fast-paced world today, the lifestyle and everyday eating habits of people are also evolving rapidly. The demands of the dynamic world are taking a toll on people and leading to a variety of lifestyle diseases.
Esophagitis is one such lifestyle disease that is caused mainly due to unhealthy dietary habits and an inactive lifestyle. The esophagus is the muscular tube that is responsible for sending food from the mouth to the stomach. Any inflammation or irritation of the esophagus is called esophagitis.
Esophagitis can be extremely painful and can cause difficulty in swallowing along with sharp chest pain. A few reasons that can cause this condition is, side effects of certain medications, infections due to viruses and bacteria, and allergies.
What are the symptoms of Esophagitis?
It is very easy to confuse the symptoms of esophagitis with any other digestive-related conditions. The medical prognosis by a qualified gastroenterologist is required to correctly diagnose the condition. But some of the most common symptoms associated with esophagitis are as follows:
● Difficult and painful swallowing – If a person is suffering from esophagitis, they will experience extreme pain during swallowing any food or liquid. This is caused due to inflammation in the esophagus, which causes pain when any food or liquid substance tries to pass through the tube. Sometimes, it even leads to food impaction, where the food is stuck in the middle of the esophagus.
● Sharp chest pains and heartburn – When one tries to chew the food and swallow it and experiences a sharp pain in the chest, particularly behind the breastbone, the person could be suffering from esophagitis. The condition also causes severe heartburn sensations while eating because of inflammation and acid reflux.
● Sore throat – While suffering from esophagitis, it is common to experience a sore throat with scratchy and burning feelings. It is caused by repeated regurgitation of food.
What are the causes leading to Esophagitis?
Although esophagitis is a lifestyle disease caused due to unhealthy food habits, there are other reasons that lead to the condition. Below listed are the few most common reasons that cause esophagitis.
● Excessive intake of alcohol and caffeine – Alcohol and caffeine when consumed regularly in large quantities, can cause acid reflux which leads to scarring of the esophagus. The severe scarring of the acid reflux leads to esophagitis.
● Allergies – Certain allergies such as allergic rhinitis, atopic dermatitis, and asthma can cause esophagitis. A person with a family history of the condition is more likely to suffer from esophagitis.
● Bacterial and Viral Infections – In most cases, people with poor immune systems suffer from esophagitis. People with weakened immune systems often fall sick due to viral and bacterial infection and hence are excessively treated with antibiotics and steroids. These medications can cause esophagitis as a side effect.
Treatment options for esophagitis
The most common treatment plan followed for treating esophagitis is to lessen symptoms, manage the complications caused while treating the underlying causes of the condition. Treatment plans can vary based on the cause of the condition and severity of it. A few of the common methods to treat the condition are, as listed below:
● Dietary changes – If the esophagitis is not very severe and the patient is mainly experiencing minor symptoms like acid reflux, a dietary change can treat the condition. Foods containing excessive caffeine, alcohol, fat, and spice are asked to avoid as they have the ability to cause acid reflux and gag reaction in the food pipe.
● Surgery. Fundoplication is a surgery performed to improve the condition of the esophagus and repair any damages to the tissue caused. This is performed as the last resort if other interventions do not yield any results. A measured portion of the stomach is wrapped around the valve separating the esophagus tube and stomach and this prevents acid from returning back into the esophagus.
If anybody is experiencing any symptoms and are chronic in nature, it is advisable to visit a doctor and get a complete diagnosis done. Waiting for a longer period or using over-the-counter pills to treat the condition, can worsen it and lead to serious and irreversible damage to the esophagus.
# The author is Surgical Gastroenterologist at Apollo Spectra Hospital Kondapur, Hyderabad