Esophageal Stricture

Overview

Definition

Esophageal stricture is a narrowing of the tube (esophagus) that goes from the mouth to the stomach. This makes it hard to take in food.

Esophageal Stricture
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Causes

The main cause is scar tissue. This may happen because of:

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

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:

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

SymptomsandDiagnosis

Symptoms

Problems may be:

  • Pain and trouble swallowing
  • A feeling of food being stuck
  • Bringing swallowed food up again
  • Drooling, coughing, or choking
  • Problems getting enough fluids or nutrition

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical may be done.

Other tests may be:

  • An upper GI endoscopy to look at the structures from the back of the throat to the stomach
  • An upper GI series to take pictures of the digestive system using contrast material to highlight abnormalities

Treatments

Treatment

The goal of treatment is to ease symptoms and stop them from coming back. Options are:

  • Medicines to lower stomach acid in people whose GERD is causing the narrowing
  • Esophageal dilation to stretch or widen the esophagus using a scope and a balloon or plastic dilator

Surgery may be needed when other methods do not help.

Prevention

To lower the risk of this problem:

  • People with GERD should follow the care plan given to them by their doctors.
  • Avoid substances that can damage the esophagus.
  • Keep harmful substances 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.

RESOURCES

American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy https://www.asge.org 

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians https://familydoctor.org 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Association of Gastroenterology https://www.cag-acg.org 

The College of Family Physicians of Canada https://www.cfpc.ca 

References

Caustic esophageal stricture. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/caustic-esophageal-stricture. Accessed October 21, 2020.

Esophageal stricture. Cedars-Sinai website. Available at: https://www.cedars-sinai.edu/Patients/Health-Conditions/Esophageal-Stricture.aspx. Accessed October 21, 2020.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/gastroesophageal-reflux-disease-gerd. Accessed October 21, 2020.

Kellerman R, Kintanar T. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. Prim Care. 2017 Dec;44(4):561-573.

Understanding esophageal dilation. American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy website. Available at: https://www.asge.org/home/for-patients/patient-information/understanding-eso-dilation-updated. Accessed October 21, 2020.