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A to Z: Esophagitis

Esophagitis (ih-sof-uh-JI-tis) is inflammation, irritation, or swelling of the esophagus.

More to Know

The esophagus is the muscular tube that carries food and liquids from the mouth to the stomach. A number of different factors can cause the esophagus to become inflamed, irritated, or swollen. The most common cause of esophagitis is gastroesophageal reflux, a condition in which stomach acid flows back into the esophagus. Other causes include allergic reactions; reactions to certain oral medications (pills or other medicines that are swallowed); and infection by bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites.

Esophagitis can narrow the esophagus and cause symptoms such as difficult or painful swallowing, heartburn, chest pain, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, coughing, sore throat, and decreased appetite. It can also cause food to become lodged in the esophagus.

If left untreated, esophagitis can increase the risk of more serious conditions.

Treatment depends on what is causing the esophagitis and may include medicines to treat acid reflux, reduce allergic reactions, or fight infections. Lifestyle choices (such as losing weight, not smoking, and avoiding foods that cause allergic reactions or increase reflux) also can help control esophagitis.

Keep in Mind

Most of the conditions that cause esophagitis respond well to treatment. Esophagitis caused by oral medications usually heals within a few days after the medicine is changed or its use is stopped.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.