Esophageal stricture is when the esophagus narrows making it hard to swallow. The esophagus is a muscular tube that carries food and liquids from the mouth to the stomach.
Esophageal stricture is typically caused by scar tissue that develops as a result of the following:
Factors that may increase your chance of esophageal stricture include:
Esophageal stricture may cause:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Pain when swallowing
- Unintentional weight loss
- Regurgitation of food—when food flows back from the stomach into the esophagus or mouth
- Large chunks of food to get stuck in the esophagus
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tests may include:
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include:
Esophageal dilation is a procedure your doctor performs to stretch or widen your esophagus. An endoscope will be passed through your mouth and into the esophagus, stomach, and the first part of the small intestine. A small balloon or tapered plastic dilators will be used to stretch your esophagus. For your comfort, this procedure may be performed while you are sedated. A local anesthetic spray may be applied to the back of your throat. Repeat dilations are often required to adequately stretch the esophagus.
Proton Pump Inhibitors
When esophageal stricture is caused by GERD, proton pump inhibitors or acid-blocking medications are used to prevent the stricture from returning.
To help reduce your chance of esophageal stricture:
- Follow your treatment plan if you have been diagnosed with GERD.
- Treat any other high risk cause as directed by your doctor
- Avoid ingesting corrosive substances.
- Keep corrosive substances locked up and away from children.
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy
Canadian Association of Gastroenterology
Canadian Medical Association Journal
Caustic esophageal stricture. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated July 2, 2010. Accessed July 15, 2013.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 25, 2013. Accessed June 16, 2014.
Oesophageal strictures, webs, and rings. Patient UK website. Available at: http://patient.info/doctor/oesophageal-strictures-webs-and-rings. Updated March 18, 2011. Accessed July 15, 2013.
Understanding esophageal dilation. American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy website. Available at: http://www.asge.org/patients/patients.aspx?id=392. Accessed July 15, 2013.
Last reviewed June 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.