Esophagus is the muscular tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach. The esophagus has four layers; the inner layer, sub-mucosa, muscle layer and the outer layer. All the four layers have special purposes and features that help the esophagus to perform its required task. There are many types of esophagus diseases and infections that affect the four layers causing discomfort and frustration. These esophagus diseases include the esophagitis, esophageal dysphagia, gastroesophageaal reflux diseases, cancer and many more. The symptoms and signs of the esophagus diseases tend to be similar hence making it difficult to diagnose the specific disease.
Causes of esophagus diseases
The causes of esophagus diseases depend on the type of disorder present. The following are the main causes of esophagus diseases.
- Congenital defects are caused by errors in development.
- Obesity and advancing age also cause esophagus diseases.
- Achalasia is caused by death of the nerve cells that control the muscles that enhance peristalsis.
- Fungi cause infectious esophagus diseases.
- Swallowing harsh chemicals causes corrosive esophagitis.
- Cancer radio therapy causes radiation esophagus diseases.
- Inflammatory diseases that affect the gallbladder, stomach or pancreas.
- Gender- cancer of the esophagus is more common in men.
- Smoking is major cause of esophagus diseases.
Symptoms of esophagus diseases
The major and most common symptoms of esophagus diseases include:
- Painful swallowing: There are a lot of nerves and muscles that are involved in the swallowing. If these muscles are affected by diseases or infections, swallowing becomes difficult and painful.
- Unexplained pain: Most esophagus diseases cause mild to severe pain depending on the type of infection and its severity. Pain can present itself at any time and any where near the esophagus. Constant dull pain or achy chest pain. Pain can be triggered by things like swallowing and coughing.
- Heartburn: This is the condition where by the chest feels like it is burning inside. This burning sensation can spread to the esophagus and cause an unpleasant sour like taste.
- Acid reflux: This is the regurgitation of stomach acids and foods. This is very dangerous since in some cases it occurs at night and the regurgitated food can be inhaled into the lungs and end up causing aspiration pneumonia.
Treatment for esophagus diseases
The esophagus treatment is aimed at the curbing and managing the symptoms present. Pharmacologic therapy which Provides relief to patients in early stages of achalasia when the disease activity is mild. Tricyclic antidepressants are used to manage non-cardiac chest pains that are resistant to other types of therapies. Antireflux therapy is used to manage chest pain especially in spactic esophageal dysmotility. Use of smooth muscle relaxants also helps. Botulium toxic injection is used to treat achalasia, pain relief, dysphalgia and regurgitation. Endoscopic therapy to treat achalasia. After endoscopic therapy, change of diet is recommended. Surgery: targets to disrupt the LES (myotomy) hence relief high pressure at the gastroesophageal junction.
- Heller myotomy is an operation for patients with achalasia. It reduces the pressure across gastroesophageal and eliminates dysphagia. Its main complication is postmyotomy reflux.
- Esophagectomy with gastric pull up is used to treat patients with advanced esophagus diseases.
- Extended heller myotomy is a more complex surgery and most of the time it does not relieve symptoms. It is used as a final procedure where the other therapies have failed and the pain is severe.