Esophageal stricture is a condition that develops slowly over a long period of time, and it can show a variety of symptoms. Diagnosis of the condition is done using a barium swallow, which coats the esophagus and shows the imaging equipment the exact area of stricture. An endoscope also may be used, but it's not used properly, then it may further aggravate the symptoms.
The esophagus is the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach. Esophageal stricture is the narrowing of that tube at any point that makes swallowing food difficult.
There are a variety of potential causes for esophageal stricture, and some risk factors that can increase the chances of contracting the condition. Prolonged acid reflux disease can cause the esophagus to narrow, as well as a bacterial or viral infection. Ingesting corrosive materials such as cleaning chemicals damage the esophagus, and you also can contract esophageal stricture as the result of irritation left behind by a endoscope. An endoscope is a long tube used to examine the esophagus that can scrape the esophagus wall and cause irritation. In some cases, the esophagus may be partially closed by a tumor associated with esophageal cancer.
The symptoms associated with esophageal stricture are logically tied to the partial closing of the esophagus. There is a difficulty swallowing food, and the possibility that larger pieces of food may get regurgitated back out. As the condition advances, the esophagus becomes painful during swallowing. This pain along with a continued difficulty is swallowing food, which typically results in noticeable weight loss.
The symptoms of esophageal stricture may reach beyond the area of the esophagus. There may be fits of throwing up blood accompanied by shortness of breath or chronic coughing. Bowel movements may turn black, and a bitter taste may develop in the mouth. Belching or recurring hiccups may occur on a regular basis.
The most common treatment for an esophageal stricture is a process called a dilation. This is when an endoscope is used to place a balloon in the esophagus, and the balloon is inflated to stretch the esophagus back into its original shape. Dilation may need to be performed more than once to make sure stricture does not return. In the case of blockages, such as tumors associated with esophageal cancer, surgery is required.