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What Are the Different Causes of Esophagus Damage?

Intravenous fluids may be given to treat or prevent dehydration.
Damage to the esophagus can cause extreme pain and difficulty swallowing.
The hollow tube known as the esophagus runs from the stomach to the throat.
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  • Written By: Autumn Rivers
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 22 November 2014
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Various conditions can lead to esophagus damage, causing painful swallowing and discomfort in general. Gastroesophageal reflux disease, often called GERD or acid reflux, is one common cause of damage to the lining of the esophagus. Another condition that can lead to issues in the esophagus is bulimia, as those suffering from this eating disorder regularly force food and stomach acid to enter the throat. Of course, long-term conditions are not the only cause of esophagus damage, as swallowing dangerous chemicals can have the same result.

GERD causes gastric acids to rise from the stomach into the esophagus, usually leading to heartburn. Unfortunately, this condition often goes untreated for years, resulting in esophagus damage due to stomach acid burning the lining over time. Most people with GERD get heartburn at least twice per week, and if this continues for years, the result is inflammation of the lining of the esophagus, which can be quite painful. The issue may be prevented by staying away from spicy foods, avoiding eating just before lying down, and eating smaller meals. Severe cases that are not helped by these tips may require prescription medication.

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Eating disorders are typically damaging to the body in general, but bulimia in particular can destroy the lining of the esophagus over time. This is because bulimics force themselves to vomit, resulting in both food and stomach acid entering the esophagus. Like GERD, this can gradually burn the lining and cause discomfort that requires the use of medication in many cases. Unfortunately, even when bulimics recover, they often have to deal with lasting esophagus damage, especially after years of purging. Those with particularly severe cases may not even be able to swallow on their own, which is why early treatment of the issue is often important.

Even those without health conditions or eating disorders may experience esophagus damage, as swallowing harmful chemicals can result in inflammation of the lining. This may occur when children accidentally consume cleaning products, though some adults may also experience it when attempting suicide in this manner. The lining typically becomes inflamed, dead tissue comes off, and sores are created, making it difficult to swallow saliva or food. Serious cases are usually indicated by bloody vomit that contains tissue from the esophagus, inability to speak, and a rattling sound in the throat. Immediate treatment typically includes medication to control the swelling, as well as antibiotics to prevent infection and intravenous fluids to avoid dehydration and malnourishment.

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