Pain in the esophagus can be caused by number of health conditions.
Esophagus is a tube that connects pharynx (throat) with the stomach and it is around 10 inch long. Esophagus carries food, saliva and liquids from the mouth to the stomach. Pain in the esophagus can indicate several diseases but it may be hard to diagnose since esophagus pain can be similar to chest pain due to heart problems.
Causes of Esophagus Pain
Acid Reflux Disease
Esophagus pain most commonly results from acid reflux disease. This condition occurs when gastric juices containing acid travel back from the stomach to the esophagus. Acid reflux disease causes esophagus pain, heartburn, regurgitation of food and difficulty swallowing. Long term acid reflux disease can result in Barrett’s esophagus.
Esophagitis refers to inflammation of the lining of the esophagus. This condition can be caused by acid reflux disease, vomiting, medications, weaken immune system, esophageal infection, alcohol use and other reasons. Esophagitis is followed by pain, heartburn, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness, and sore throat.
Esophageal spasm is characterized by painful muscle contractions in the esophagus. The condition can cause sudden sharp pain in the esophagus. Esophageal spasms can also lead to difficulty swallowing, burning pain in the chest and regurgitation.
Sphincter is a ring-like muscle that controls the entry or exit of contents from a passage. The gastroesophageal sphincter represents the valve at the top of the stomach that allows the food to pass from the esophagus to the stomach. It is also known as cardiac sphincter. If spasms occur in gastroesophageal sphincter it can lead to abnormal propulsion of food or regurgitation of food from the stomach and it will result in pain in the esophagus.
Cancer of the Esophagus
Cancer that occurs in the esophagus can be caused by recurring acid reflux disease attacks, smoking, alcohol drinking and too much spicy food in a diet. Esophageal cancer typically causes pain in the esophagus, difficulty swallowing and unusual weight loss.
Other Causes of Esophagus Pain
Apart from mentioned causes, pain in the esophagus may occur due to trauma to the esophagus, either physical or chemical. Esophagus pain can also result from perforation of the esophagus, injuries to the esophagus due to radiation, esophageal burns caused by excessive intake of spicy and highly acidic foods, and other factors.
Treatment of Esophagus Pain
The treatment depends on the underlying cause of the pain in the esophagus. Thereby, precise diagnosis should be made. Acid reflux disease can be treated with a GERD diet that includes bland and non-spicy food. Esophageal spasms are treated with anti-spasmodic medications. Esophageal cancer is treated with chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery.