The esophagus is a tube that connects the mouth and the stomach. An esophageal stricture is an abnormal narrowing in some portion of this tube.
Signs of a narrowing include:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Having food come back up the throat from the stomach
- Cough, particularly at night
- Dehydration or weight loss
Causes and Risk Factors
Growths can be due to tumors, esophageal webs or cancer. Scarring can be caused by injury to the esophagus from chronic gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), swallowing caustic chemicals or radiation therapy to the chest or neck.
This condition is usually confirmed by a barium swallow or by upper GI endoscopy. A barium swallow can help blocks of the esophagus by an abnormal growth or scar show up on an X-ray. Upper GI endoscopy is a procedure in which a tiny camera at the end of the a tube is inserted through the mouth into the throat, allowing the doctor to see the inside of the esophagus and biopsy a stricture to find its cause.
Treatment depends on the cause of narrowing. For chronic GERD, treatment could include changes in eating habits or drugs to reduce the amount of acid in the stomach. Growths may need surgery. Stretching can be done with endoscopy, either using a balloon that is blown up at the narrowed part of the throat or by passing a long, flexible tube called a dilator through the area.