swallowing difficulty, first with solid foods, then liquids;
chest pain after meals; increased salivation.
of foods and liquids. These may be aspirated into the lungs,
causing cough, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
When To Call Your Doctor
a doctor if you experience progressive difficulty in swallowing.
an ambulance if someone has swallowed a corrosive material.
to an emergency room if food becomes stuck in the esophagus and
cannot be dislodged by drinking water or other maneuvers.
What Is It?
An esophageal stricture is a narrowing of the esophagus,
the passageway from the throat to the stomach. Stomach acid,
esophageal cancer, accidentally swallowed harsh chemicals, and
other irritants may injure the esophageal lining, causing inflammation
(esophagitis) and the formation of scar tissue. This may gradually
lead to obstruction of the esophagus, preventing food and fluids
from reaching the stomach.
What Causes It?
reflux of gastric acid into the esophagus (see
Gastroesophageal Reflux for more information).
(scleroderma), which is often associated with severe reflux and
lye or other corrosive chemicals.
in the esophagus.
surgery or protracted use of a nasogastric tube (used in hospitals
cancer may narrow the esophagus and produce the same symptoms.
treatment of chronic gastroesophageal reflux is necessary.
Store all corrosive
chemicals where they will be inaccessible to children.
Take all pills
with a full glass of liquid.
studies. You may be required to swallow barium, which helps to
create a sharp image of the esophagus on an x-ray.
of an illuminated scope into the esophagus through the mouth
under local anesthesia) may be performed.
How To Treat It
may advise a diet of liquids or soft foods until food can be
swallowed without difficulty.
dilation of the esophagus (esophageal bougienage) may be performed
to widen the stricture.
In severe cases
the affected portion of the esophagus may be removed and replaced
with a segment of the large intestine.
In a few cases
patients who are unsuited for surgery may have a feeding tube
inserted through the stricture. Alternatively, such patients
may have a small tube placed into the stomach (gastrostomy),
so that food may bypass the esophagus completely.
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