Esophageal Stricture



Esophageal stricture happens when the esophagus narrows. It’s hard to get food down the tube that goes from the mouth to the stomach. The tube is called the esophagus.

Esophageal Stricture
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Scar tissue mainly causes esophageal stricture. This may happen because of:

  • Eating or drinking harmful substances such as household cleaning agents
  • Treating esophageal varices —enlarged veins
  • Injuries caused by an endoscope—a thin, lighted tube used to see inside the body
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Structural problems

Risk Factors

Your chances of esophageal stricture is higher for:

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Long term use of a nasogastric tube—a tube placed through the nose and into the stomach
  • Inflammation—esophagitis
  • Scleroderma
  • Barrett esophagus
  • Certain medicines such as those used to treat osteoporosis
  • Some antibiotics



Common symptoms:

  • Problems when you swallow such as pain
  • A feeling of food being stuck
  • Regurgitation
  • Drooling, coughing, choking
  • Problems getting enough fluids or nutrition


Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. You may have:

  • A physical exam
  • An upper GI endoscopy —a scope is used to look at the structures from the back of the throat to the stomach
  • A barium swallow



You may need one or more of these:

  • Esophageal dilation —To stretch or widen the esophagus. A scope is passed through your mouth. It then goes into the esophagus. A balloon or plastic dilator will widen and open the narrowed part.
  • Medicines—In some people, GERD causes these problems. Your doctor may give you medicines. These will lower the amount of acid in the stomach. They may also help keep the narrowing from coming back.
  • Surgery—may be needed if the stricture:
    • Is severe
    • Can't be fixed with other methods


To help lower your chances of esophageal stricture:

  • Follow your doctor’s instructions on caring for certain conditions that cause it.
  • Get help right away if you or someone else swallowed harmful substances.
  • Keep harmful substances locked up and away from children.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.


American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy 

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians 


Canadian Association of Gastroenterology 

The College of Family Physicians of Canada 


Caustic esophageal stricture. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:  . Updated August 8, 2014. Accessed August 14, 2018.

Esophageal stricture. Cedars-Sinai website. Available at: Accessed August 14, 2018.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:  . Updated September 14, 2017. Accessed August 14, 2018.

Oesophageal strictures, webs, and rings. Patient website. Available at: Updated February 15, 2017. Accessed August 14, 2018.

Understanding esophageal dilation. American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy website. Available at: Accessed August 14, 2018.