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Infectious esophagitis

Infection - esophagus; Esophageal infection

Esophagitis is a general term for any inflammation, irritation, or swelling of the esophagus. This is the tube that carries food and liquids from the mouth to the stomach.

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Herpetic esophagitis
Upper gastrointestinal system
CMV esophagitis
Candidal esophagitis

Causes

Infectious esophagitis is rare. It often occurs in people whose immune systems are weakened. People who have strong immune systems don't usually develop the infection.

Common causes of a weakened immune system include:

Organisms (germs) that cause esophagitis include fungi, yeast, and viruses. Common organisms include:

Symptoms

Symptoms of esophagitis include:

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will ask about your symptoms and examine your mouth and throat. Tests may include:

You may need to have an upper endoscopy exam. This is a test to examine the lining of the esophagus.

Treatment

In most people with esophagitis, medicines can control the infection. These include:

Some people may also need pain medicine.

Ask your provider for special diet recommendations. For example, there may be foods you need to avoid eating as your esophagitis heals.

Many people who are treated for an episode of infectious esophagitis need other, long-term medicines to suppress the virus or fungus, and to prevent the infection from coming back.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Esophagitis can usually be treated effectively and usually heals in 3 to 5 days. People with a weakened immune system may take longer to get better.

Possible Complications

Health problems that may result from infectious esophagitis include:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if you have any condition that can cause reduced immune response and you develop symptoms of infectious esophagitis.

Prevention

If you have a weakened immune system, try to avoid contact with people who have an infection with any of the organisms mentioned above.

Related Information

Ulcers
Esophagitis
Immunodeficiency disorders

References

Graman PS. Esophagitis. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 97.

Katzka DA. Esophageal disorders caused by medications, trauma, and infection. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 46.

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Review Date: 8/25/2019  

Reviewed By: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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