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Esophageal Varices


Esophageal varices are swollen veins in the lower part of your esophagus. They are caused by increased pressure in the blood vessels of your liver. As the pressure builds in your liver, the pressure also builds in the veins in your esophagus.



  • Beta-blockers: These decrease the pressure in your liver.
  • Proton-pump inhibitors: These decrease the amount of stomach acid produced. The decrease in stomach acid may keep the varices from bleeding.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

You may need to return for more treatments. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Prevent your varices from bleeding:

  • Do not drink alcohol: This will help prevent further damage to your esophagus and liver.
  • Eat healthy foods: Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. Ask if you need to be on a special diet. You may need to eat foods that reduce stomach acid. Stomach acid can get into your esophagus and cause the varices to break open and bleed.
  • Limit sodium: You may need to decrease the amount of sodium you eat if you have swelling caused by fluid buildup. Fluid buildup can cause increased pressure in your veins. Sodium is found in table salt and salty foods such as canned foods, frozen foods, and potato chips.
  • Drink liquids as directed: Too much liquid can increase the pressure in your veins. Ask your healthcare provider how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • You have severe abdominal pain.
  • You see blood in your vomit or bowel movements.
  • You have chest pain or you are short of breath.
  • You have trouble thinking clearly.

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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.