Esophagus is a hollow muscular tube through which food and water passes down into the stomach. We commonly refer to it as food pipe. Esophageal ulcer is one of the variant of peptic ulcer; the other two are stomach ulcer and duodenal ulcer. The causes of all are similar. An ulcer is a shallow or deep groove in its containing lining.
An ulcer in esophagus generally occurs in its lower part. For some reason that we will discuss elaborately in next paragraph, the inner lining of esophagus gets corroded to form an ulcer.Ulcer in esophagus can be chronic or acute; it can cause lot of distress and pain below the breastbone. Healing of esophageal ulcer is slow. These open sores in the lining of esophagus recur quiet often. Recurrence can result in narrowing and strictures in the food pipe.
Causes Of Ulcer In The Esophagus
Ulcers in esophagus are usually associated with chronic gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD is often responsible for esophagitis (inflammation of esophagus).
Recurrent esophagitis is one of the most common causes for esophageal ulcers. Let us find what causes recurrent esophagitis.The lower end of esophagus joins the upper part of stomach, but the inner lining of esophagus is not similar to that of stomach.
When the esophagus sphincter becomes loose, the gastric content which also contains stomach acids reverses back in the lower end of esophagus. The reflux of acid corrodes the internal lining of the esophagus, giving rise to esophagitis. Recurrent episodes ultimately lead to ulceration in the lower part of esophagus.
H. pylori bacteria which are considered to be a prominent reason for stomach and duodenal ulcer, it is also believed to be a reason for esophageal ulcer.
Chronic alcoholism, intake of excessive coffee and tea and carbonated drinks, smoking can lead to esophagitis and ulcers later on.
Use of NSAID (pain killer and anti inflammatory) medicine for prolonged period can cause corrosion in the lining of esophagus and stomach giving rise to ulcers.
Stress and strain of long duration is also responsible for ulcer in esophagus.
Accidental ingestion of corrosive substances such as mild or strong acids and chemicals can also cause ulceration in esophagus and stomach.
Symptoms Of Esophageal Ulcer
- Burning pain below the breast bone is the first and prominent symptom of esophageal ulcer. The pain may increase after eating food, especially after eating spicy food.
- Nausea and vomiting is common finding in people suffering from esophageal ulcer. Vomiting may be tinged with blood. The blood is bright red.
- Feeling of lump in throat.
- Patient may find difficulty while swallowing food.
- Stools are dark black in color as a result of bleeding from ulceration.
- Weight loss due to less food intake.
Esophageal ulcer is diagnosed with the help of detailed medical history, clinical history and various tests. Tests such as endoscopy and X- ray barium confirm the diagnosis in most cases.
Treatment For Esophageal Ulcer
Once the patient is diagnosed of ulcer in esophagus, it is necessary to follow diet, lifestyle changes and drugs prescribed by the doctor.
- Proton pump inhibitors and antacids are normally prescribed by physicians.
- Combination of antibiotics is also prescribed when the ulcer is suspected to be due to H. pylori bacterial infection.
- Lifestyle changes such as avoidance of alcohol and cigarette play a vital role in healing esophageal ulcers. Also reduce intake of coffee and tea.
- Sleep for at least 8 hours.
- Apples and bananas are natural foods for healing ulcers in stomach, esophagus and duodenum. Drink banana milk shake or apple juice in morning and evening.
- Avoid too much of spicy food.
- Eat two hours before you retire to bed. Your dinner should be light.
- Morning walk, yoga, meditation are good for relieving stress.
- Herbal teas protect the lining of esophagus from further damage and help in healing process. They act as demulcent. Tea prepared from Marshmallow, Calendula, and Slippery Elm is beneficial in healing the esophageal ulcer.