are Esophageal Ulcers?
Esophageal Ulcers are defined as open sores or lesions in
the lining of the esophagus (the tube that carries food from
your throat to your stomach). These ulcers usually cause pain
that is felt behind or just below your breastbone, similar
to the area where you would feel heartburn symptoms.
Healing is slow and these ulcers can recur quite often.
Chronic and severe recurrences can result in a narrowing of
your esophagus after healing.
It is important to note that curing
acid reflux early is the key to preventing major problems
and possible complications later.
What are the main causes?
Ulcers in the esophagus are usually associated
with chronic gastro esophageal reflux disease (more commonly
known as acid reflux or GERD).
Your esophagus does not have the same mucous
lining that your stomach has to protect itself against your
stomach acid. When excessive stomach acid refluxes from your
stomach up into your esophagus, it can corrode the lining
of your esophagus over a relatively short period of time.
This eventually leads to inflammation of the esophagus (known
as esophagitis), and then later to ulceration.
Other common causes are:
- Prolonged use of NSAID's (anti-inflammatory medications)
- Acid Reflux
- Acid effects of forced vomiting in Bulimia cases
How are these ulcers diagnosed?
Your doctor can diagnose esophageal ulcers with a
barium x-ray or endoscopy. Click
here to find out more about these procedures.
What is the best treatment?
Esophageal ulcers are very sensitive to minute amounts of acid,
much more so than gastric and duodenal ulcers. Doctors regularly
prescribe proton-pump inhibitors to suppress your stomach acid.
The logic of acid reduction is good for esophageal ulcer healing,
but the real results can be far from good.
Treating the symptoms only is not going to lead to a cure. So
I recommend that these ulcer
medications should be avoided at all costs as they
can do more harm than good. Treatment should rather be directed
at the underlying cause - 90% of cases will show that an infection
of H. pylori in the stomach is to
Most of the remaining cause is the result of prolonged use
of NSAID's. Stopping smoking is also a good idea!
Esophageal narrowing is usually treated with drug therapy
and by a process of repeated dilation to widen parts of your
esophagus - dilation is performed by using balloons or progressively
larger dilators called bougies (cone-shaped tubes). Not exactly
what you want down your throat!
Are there any serious complications?
Complications of ulcers include bleeding and perforation. Ulcers
and their resulting inflammation can erode into the esophageal
blood vessels and give rise to bleeding into the esophagus.
are dangerous and should be treated immediately.
Prolonged or severe acid reflux (severe heartburn) causes
changes in the cells that line the esophagus. These cells
then become pre-cancerous, and finally cancerous. Cancer is
estimated to occur in 10% of patients with acid reflux.
Esophageal cancer is currently the fastest growing cancer
in the western world. The two biggest risk factors for this
type of cancer are Acid reflux (GERD) and Barrett's esophagus.
Esophageal narrowing and Barrett's esophagus (an abnormal
lining of the bottom part of the esophagus) are long-term
complications from esophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus).
Barrett's esophagus is also know Barrett's syndrome, and is
a marker for severe reflux and a sure sign of onset of esophageal
In 1998 surveys showed that esophageal cancer was one of
the 10 leading cancers causing death among men in the USA.
People who have Barrett's esophagus are at increased risk,
as are people who have long standing acid reflux problems.
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Sources and references
All our information
is sourced from various digestive health experts,
a world renowned immunologist, and from these trusted websites;