A benign esophageal stricture is a narrowing of the esophagus that can make swallowing difficult. The esophagus is the muscular swallowing tube that connects the throat to the stomach. Benign strictures in the esophagus can be caused by a variety of injuries and disease, including:
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), the frequent backwash of stomach contents into the esophagus
- Injuries by an endoscope, a medical instrument inserted into the esophagus to diagnose and treat disorders
- Long-term use of a nasogastric tube, a tube that is used to carry food and medicine through the nose to the stomach
- Swallowing substances that injure the esophagus, such as very hot or very cold liquids.
People with esophageal strictures may experience:
- Difficult or painful swallowing
- Food coming back up into the mouth (regurgitation)
- Unexplained weight loss.
If you have symptoms of a stricture, you may undergo several tests at Norton Thoracic Institute, including the following:
- Upper gastrointestinal endoscopy to examine the inside of the esophagus for strictures. In this procedure, a flexible tube (endoscope) with a light and camera at its tip is passed through your mouth and into your esophagus while you are lightly sedated. Tissue samples (biopsies) may be taken during the procedure, and dilatation may be performed to improve the passage of food and drink through the narrowed area.
- Barium swallow in which you swallow a thick substance called barium while you undergo an x-ray of your chest. The barium fills and coats the inside of the esophagus, which allows the physician to see any narrowed areas.
The esophageal experts at Norton Thoracic Institute have several ways to treat strictures:
- Stretching or dilating the esophagus to allow food and drink to move more easily through the esophagus
- Medications called proton pump inhibitors that block acids and prevent a stricture from returning
- Temporary stenting of the stricture to open up the esophagus.
Although some strictures cannot be prevented, here are steps you can take to lessen your risk:
- If you have symptoms of GERD, see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment. Untreated GERD can damage your esophagus.
- Be careful with corrosive substances, especially if children are present. Accidentally drinking a dangerous chemical can cause strictures.
Learn About Esophageal Strictures Services at Norton Thoracic Institute
To learn more about our services, call (602) 406-4000.