Skip to main content

Corrosive Esophagitis

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Aug 31, 2022.

What is corrosive esophagitis?

Corrosive esophagitis is damage to your esophagus from harmful substances. The damage may cause inflammation, ulcers, or scarring.

Digestive Tract

What increases my risk for corrosive esophagitis?

  • Swallowing strong chemicals such as detergents, dishwashing liquid, or drain cleaners
  • Radiation therapy to kill cancer cells
  • Certain medicines, such as antibiotics, pain medicines, and drugs for osteoporosis (weak bones)
  • Pills that get caught in your throat if you have a narrow esophagus or do not swallow enough liquid with the pills
  • Digestion changes or problems as you get older
  • Certain conditions that cause your esophagus to narrow or the muscles not to work correctly
  • A dry mouth condition that causes less saliva to be made
  • Heart problems that cause your heart to get bigger and press on your esophagus can make the opening smaller

What are the signs and symptoms of corrosive esophagitis?

  • Chest pain that is sudden or happens after you take a pill
  • Pain when you swallow liquids or food
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting blood

How is corrosive esophagitis diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and other health problems. He or she may ask which pills you have taken or treatments you have received. He or she may ask if you have swallowed any harmful liquids. You may need one or more of the following:

  • A barium swallow is used to take pictures of your abdomen. You will need to swallow a thick liquid called barium that helps the intestines show up better on x-ray.
  • Endoscopy is a procedure used to see the inside of your esophagus and stomach. A flexible tube with a small light and camera on the end are used. Your healthcare provider will look for any bleeding, lumps, narrowing, scars, tears, or pill pieces. He or she may take a small amount of tissue from your esophagus to be tested.
    Upper Endoscopy

How is corrosive esophagitis treated?

Your healthcare provider may have you stop certain medicine or treatments for a period of time. This will give your esophagus time to heal. Do not stop any treatments without talking to your provider first. You may also need the following:

  • Medicines may be given to decrease inflammation or irritation from stomach acids. They may help increase the protective lining of the esophagus to help it heal. You may also need antibiotics to treat or prevent a bacterial infection in your esophagus.
  • Dilatation is a procedure used to widen the esophagus. A small balloon, dilator, or stent is placed in your esophagus and expanded.
  • Surgery may be needed to remove an area of your esophagus. It may be replaced with a portion of your stomach or colon.

What can I do to prevent corrosive esophagitis?

  • Sit or stand when you take your medicine. Do not lie down after you take your pills. Stay in an upright position for 10 to 15 minutes after you take your pills.
  • Store harmful chemicals in a safe location. Label bottles with harmful substances.
  • Ask for other ways to take your medicine. If you have a narrow esophagus, ask if you can take your medicine in liquid form. Ask if you can crush the pill and mix it with liquid to drink. If you must swallow pills, take them 1 at a time. Take each one with at least 4 ounces of liquid.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You feel like food or medicine is stuck in your esophagus and it does not go down when you drink water.
  • Your vomit has blood in it or looks like coffee grounds.
  • You have black or bloody bowel movements.
  • Your symptoms are getting worse.

When should I call my doctor?

  • You have a fever.
  • You have pain that does not decrease or go away after you take your pain medicine.
  • You vomit and cannot keep food or liquids down.
  • Your stomach feels very full, and you cannot burp or vomit.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Ā© Copyright IBM Corporation 2022 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotesĀ® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

Learn more about Corrosive Esophagitis

Treatment options

Care guides

Symptoms and treatments

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.