Oesophagal strictures are narrowings or constrictions of the oesophagus, the tube that carries food and liquids from the mouth to the stomach. They can result from conditions like acid reflux, radiation therapy scarring, or caustic substance ingestion. Strictures can cause difficulty swallowing and may require treatments such as dilation (stretching) or surgery to widen the oesophagus.
Oesophagal strictures are a critical condition that can lead to difficulties swallowing, chest pain, and even complications like food impaction. Symptoms may range from mild swallowing discomfort to severe obstructions, prompting a need for prompt medical attention. Causes can stem from various factors, including chronic acid reflux, ingesting corrosive substances, or eosinophilic esophagitis.
Treatment approaches range from dietary modifications and medications to endoscopic procedures and surgical intervention in more severe cases. This comprehensive guide will provide all the information regarding oesophagal strictures.
Symptoms of Oesophagal Strictures
Here is a list of symptoms associated with oesophagal strictures.
- Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing): This is the most common symptom of oesophagal strictures. Individuals may feel food is getting stuck in their throat or chest. Initially, this difficulty may be experienced with solid foods, but it can also progress to include liquids.
- Regurgitation: Some individuals may experience regurgitation of undigested food or a sour-tasting fluid.
- Heartburn or acid reflux: Chronic acid reflux or heartburn can contribute to developing oesophagal strictures.
- Chest pain: In some cases, individuals may experience chest pain or a feeling of pressure behind the breastbone.
- Unintentional weight loss: Severe cases of oesophagal stricture can lead to weight loss due to reduced food intake.
Causes of Oesophagal Strictures
Common causes include
- Gastro-oesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): This is one of the primary causes. Chronic acid reflux can lead to inflammation and scarring of the oesophagus, resulting in narrowing.
- Eosinophilic esophagitis: an allergic condition characterised by an overproduction of white blood cells (eosinophils) in the oesophagus, leading to inflammation and strictures.
- Swallowing of corrosive substances: Ingesting corrosive chemicals can cause severe damage to the oesophagus, leading to strictures.
- Hiatal hernia: This occurs when a portion of the stomach protrudes through the diaphragm into the chest cavity, contributing to acid reflux.
- Radiation therapy: Treatment for conditions like cancer in the chest area can cause scarring and narrowing of the oesophagus.
- Oesophageal Surgery or Procedures: Previous surgeries or medical procedures involving the oesophagus can cause scar tissue to form, leading to strictures.
- External Compression: Rarely, external factors like tumoUrs pressing on the esophagus can cause strictures.
Diagnosis of Oesophagal strictures
Here is the list of diagnostic techniques to detect Oesophagal strictures.
- Endoscopy: A thin, flexible tube with a camera is passed through the mouth to visualise the Oesophagus. This allows for direct examination of the strictures.
- Barium Swallow: This involves swallowing a contrast material (barium), followed by X-rays. This helps in visualising the shape and condition of the oesophagus.
- Oesophageal Manometry: This test measures the strength and coordination of the muscles in the Oesophagus. It helps in assessing the functionality of the oesophagus.
- pH Monitoring: This test measures the level of acidity in the oesophagus over a period of time. It can help diagnose acid reflux.
- Biopsy: If there are any suspicious or abnormal areas in the oesophagus, the doctor may take tissue samples (biopsies) during endoscopy to check for underlying conditions like inflammation, infection, or cancer.
Treatment Option For Oesophagal Strictures
Treatment options include
- Dilation: This common treatment involves stretching the narrowed portion of the oesophagus using an inflatable balloon or a dilator. This procedure is usually performed during an endoscopy.
- Medications: Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and H2 blockers can be prescribed to reduce stomach acid and alleviate symptoms, especially if acid reflux is a contributing factor.
- Surgery: In severe cases where other treatments are ineffective, surgery may be necessary to remove the narrowed portion of the oesophagus and reconnect it.
- Lifestyle modifications: Changes in diet and eating habits, such as avoiding large meals, not lying down immediately after eating, and maintaining a healthy weight, can help manage symptoms.
- Nutritional support: In cases where swallowing difficulties are severe, a liquid or soft diet may be recommended to ensure adequate nutrition.
- Steroid Therapy: In some cases, steroids may be administered to reduce inflammation and scarring in the oesophagus.
When to Consult a Doctor
You can also get in touch with the expert Gastroenterology doctors at Narayana Healthcare based in your city to get immediate attention and medical support during injuries, health disorders or any other health concern.
Knowing the various causes, ranging from chronic acid reflux to corrosive substance ingestion, empowers individuals to make informed choices for their health. Additionally, seeking timely treatment through methods such as dilation, medication, or surgery can significantly improve the quality of life for those affected. With the right knowledge and care, individuals with Oesophagal strictures can navigate their condition with confidence and improve their overall well-being.
Q. What are the common symptoms of Oesophagal strictures?
A. Common symptoms include difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), a feeling of food getting stuck in the throat or chest, regurgitation of food or liquids, chest pain, and heartburn.
Q. What are the causes of Oesophagal strictures?
A. Various factors can cause oesophagal strictures. The most common causes include chronic acid reflux disease (GERD), scarring from previous surgery or radiation therapy, ingesting corrosive substances, and certain autoimmune conditions.
Q. How is an Oesophagal stricture diagnosed?
A. Diagnosis typically involves a combination of medical history review, physical examination, and diagnostic tests. These may include endoscopy, barium swallow, Oesophagal manometry, and sometimes imaging studies like CT scans.
Q. How is an esophageal stricture treated?
A. Oesophageal strictures are typically treated by dilation, a procedure to stretch the narrowed area. Medications, stents, steroids, and surgery may also be used depending on the severity and cause.