Esophageal stricture - benign
Benign esophageal stricture is a narrowing of the esophagus (the tube from the mouth to the stomach). It causes swallowing difficulties.
Benign means that it is not caused by cancer of the esophagus.
Cancer of the esophagus
Esophageal cancer is cancer that starts in the esophagus. This is the tube through which food moves from the mouth to the stomach.Read Article Now Book Mark Article
Esophageal stricture can be caused by:
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Gastroesophageal reflux disease
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition in which the stomach contents leak backward from the stomach into the esophagus (food pipe). F...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
- Eosinophilic esophagitis.
Eosinophilic esophagitis involves a buildup of a specific type of white blood cells, called eosinophils, in the lining of your esophagus. The esopha...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
- Injuries caused by an endoscope.
An endoscope is a medical device with a light attached. It is used to look inside a body cavity or organ. The scope is inserted through a natural o...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
- Long-term use of a nasogastric (NG) tube (tube through the nose into the stomach).
- Swallowing substances that harm the lining of the esophagus. These may include household cleaners, lye, disc batteries, or battery acid.
- Treatment of esophageal varices.
The esophagus (food pipe) is the tube that connects your throat to your stomach. Varices are enlarged veins that may be found in the esophagus in pe...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
Symptoms may include:
- Trouble swallowing
- Pain with swallowing
Pain with swallowing
Painful swallowing is any pain or discomfort while swallowing. You may feel it high in the neck or lower down behind the breastbone. Most often, th...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
- Unintentional weight loss
Unintentional weight loss
Unexplained weight loss is a decrease in body weight, when you did not try to lose the weight on your own. Many people gain and lose weight. Uninten...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
- Regurgitation of food
Exams and Tests
You may need the following tests:
- Barium swallow to look for narrowing of the esophagus
An upper GI and small bowel series is a set of x-rays taken to examine the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine. Barium enema is a related test th...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
- Endoscopy (EGD or esophagogastroduodenoscopy) to look for narrowing of the esophagus
Endoscopy is a way of looking inside the body using a flexible tube that has a small camera and light on the end of it. This instrument is called an...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
Dilation (stretching) of the esophagus using a thin cylinder or balloon that is inserted through an endoscope is the main treatment for acid reflux-related strictures. You may need to have this treatment repeated after a period of time to prevent the stricture from narrowing again.
Proton pump inhibitors (acid-blocking medicines) can keep an acid reflux-related stricture from returning. Surgery is rarely needed.
If you have eosinophilic esophagitis, you may need to take medicines or make changes to your diet to reduce the inflammation. In some cases, dilation is done.
The stricture may come back in the future. This may require a repeat dilation.
Swallowing problems may keep you from getting enough fluids and nutrients. Solid food, especially meat, can get stuck above the stricture. If this happens, endoscopy would be needed to remove the lodged food.
There is also a higher risk of having food, fluid, or vomit enter the lungs with regurgitation. This can cause choking or aspiration pneumonia.
Pneumonia is inflammation (swelling) and infection of the lungs or large airways. Aspiration pneumonia occurs when food or liquid is breathed into th...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Contact your health care provider if you have swallowing problems that do not go away.
Use safety measures to avoid swallowing substances that can harm your esophagus. Keep dangerous chemicals out of the reach of children. See your provider if you have GERD.
Rej A, Chew TS, Sanders DS. Gastroenterology. In: Penman ID, Ralston SH, Strachan MWJ, Hobson RP, eds. Davidson's Principles and Practice of Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2023:chap 21.
Rajala MW, Kochman ML. Benign esophageal strictures. In: Chandrasekhara V, Elmunzer J, Khashab MA, Muthusamy VR, eds. Clinical Gastrointestinal Endoscopy. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 21.
Richter JE, Vaezi MF. Gastroesophageal reflux disease. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 46.
Review Date: 10/31/2022
Reviewed By: Michael M. Phillips, MD, Emeritus Professor of Medicine, The George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.