An esophageal stricture is caused by damage to the esophagus that causes inflammation or swelling. When this occurs, the space in the esophagus becomes smaller, making it feel tighter and compromising function. Esophageal strictures cause symptoms such as hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, heartburn, regurgitation of food, feeling of tightness in the chest after a meal, and frequent burping or hiccupps.
While tightness in the throat can be a result of other conditions like strep throat, sinus infections, or allergic reactions, an esophageal stricture is usually caused by chemicals such as stomach acid burning the esophagus. GERD and acid reflux diseases are the most common culprit for esophageal strictures.
Diagnosis of Esophageal Stricture
The biggest risk involved with esophageal stricture is pulmonary aspiration. This can occur if food or liquid enters the lungs. There is also an increased risk of choking, while some experience a loss of appetite due to discomfort that can lead to malnutrition or dehydration.
There are a few different ways which a doctor can diagnose a case of esophageal stricture. Barium swallow tests are common, which involves swallowing a barium dye and taking x-ray images of the esophagus. This is typically a first step and preferred method as it is a non-invasive procedure.
Endoscopy is another option for diagnostic purposes. This technique involves a camera entering through the throat to obtain images of the upper GI tract. There is also pH testing that can be performed, where a tube is entered through the mouth into the stomach to measure the amount of stomach acid that enters the esophagus.
Treatment of Esophageal Stricture
Once testing has determined the cause of stricture, your doctor will recommend a treatment plan. The solution often involves stents or dilations, which means the esophagus is opened or stretched to alleviate the tightness. If GERD is the cause of the stricture, your doctor may recommend medication or changes in diet that will help to alleviate symptoms.
Although tightness in the throat may appear to be nothing, chronic cases should be investigated by a gastroenterologist. If you are exhibiting signs of esophageal stricture or are concerned with symptoms of GERD or acid reflux, it is important to seek out medical help. Gastroenterology Associates can help. Contact us today or visit our website for more information.