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Esophageal Stricture

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 3, 2022.

What is an esophageal stricture?

An esophageal stricture is a narrowing of your esophagus. Inflammation or damage to your esophagus may cause scar tissue that leads to narrowing.

What increases my risk for an esophageal stricture?

  • Long-term acid reflux
  • Birth defects, such as stenosis (narrowing) or diverticulosis (pouches)
  • Medicines, such as aspirin, pain medicines, or antimalarial antibiotics
  • Surgery, radiation, or sclerotherapy on the esophagus
  • Long-term placement of a nasogastric (NG) tube, or chemicals such as household cleaning liquids that are swallowed
  • Infections, skin diseases, scleroderma, esophagitis, or esophageal cancer

What are the signs and symptoms of an esophageal stricture?

  • Acid reflux, or burning pain in your chest
  • Bitter or acid taste in your mouth
  • Pain or trouble swallowing
  • Frequent burping or hiccups
  • Weight loss without trying

How is an esophageal stricture diagnosed?

  • A barium swallow is an x-ray of your throat and esophagus. This may also be called a barium esophagram. You will drink a thick liquid called barium. Barium helps your esophagus and stomach show up better on x-rays.
  • A CT scan, or CAT scan, is a type of x-ray taken of your esophagus and stomach. You may be given contrast dye to help healthcare providers see the pictures better. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.
  • An endoscopy is a procedure used to find the cause of the narrowing of your esophagus. Healthcare providers use an endoscope to examine your esophagus. An endoscope is a bendable tube with a light and camera on the end.

How is an esophageal stricture treated?

Treatment for esophageal stricture depends on its cause. You may also need any of the following:

  • Medicines may be given to decrease stomach acid that can irritate your esophagus and stomach.
  • Surgery or procedures may be needed to dilate (widen), repair, or remove part of your esophagus.

How can I manage my symptoms?

  • Rest as needed. Slowly start to do more each day. Return to your daily activities as directed.
  • Ask about safe foods to eat. You may not be able to eat solid foods for a period of time. You may be allowed to drink water, broth, apple juice, or lemon-lime soft drinks. You may also suck on ice chips or eat gelatin. As you improve, you may be given soft foods to eat or thickened liquids to drink. You may return to eating normal foods as your swallowing gets better.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have a fever.
  • You are vomiting and cannot keep any food or liquids down.
  • You feel very full and cannot burp or vomit.
  • You have pain that does not decrease even after you take medicine.
  • Your symptoms get worse.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You have severe chest pain and sudden trouble breathing.
  • Your bowel movements are black, bloody, or tarry-looking.
  • Your vomit looks like coffee grounds or has blood in it.

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.

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