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Candida esophagitis is a yeast infection that occurs in a person's throat. Common symptoms of Candida esophagitis include pain and trouble swallowing. Oral thrush, or a yeast infection in the mouth, is another common symptom of Candida esophagitis.
The infection is caused by Candida albicans, the yeast responsible for other kinds of yeast infections on the body. People who have weakened immune systems due to diseases such as HIV, leukemia, or diabetes or due to medical treatments such as chemotherapy are most at risk for developing Candida esophagitis. They usually get the infection after having oral thrush, as the yeast travels from the mouth to their throats.
Signs of oral thrush include white lesions in a person's mouth, typically on the tongue and the inside of the cheeks. Some people may also have lesions on the roof of their mouth or on their tonsils. If abraded, the lesions tend to bleed. If thrush spreads to the throat and develops into Candida esophagitis, a person is likely to have lesions down his or her esophagus as well.
The presence of lesions on the throat can make it difficult for someone to swallow. It may feel as though the food or something else has become lodged in a person's esophagus. In some cases, the food may actually become jammed in the throat.
A person who has trouble swallowing usually also experiences pain when trying to swallow. The pain can occur in the upper esophagus or lower down, where the esophagus connects to the stomach. Some patients experience a pain that is much like heartburn.
If Candida esophagitis is left untreated, symptoms can worsen. A fever is usually a sign that the infection has spread to other areas of the body, such as the lungs or liver. In more severe cases, perforations can form in the esophagus, which can cause trouble breathing and further infection of the upper chest area. Surgery is needed to repair a hole in the esophagus.
The infection is usually confirmed through a series of tests, including esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD), during which a small camera is inserted in the patient's throat. During the procedure, the patient is under sedation and shouldn't feel anything. Occasionally, a doctor will also take a biopsy of the esophagus during an EGD. X-rays or a culture taken from the throat can also confirm an infection in the esophagus.
Candida esophagitis can usually be cleared up with anti-fungal medicines, taken either by mouth or through an intravenous needle. Since the infection commonly occurs in people who have a reduced immune function, treatment may need to be taken for a long time.
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