Conditions That Cause Esophagus Pain
If you have been experiencing esophagus pain, then you no doubt understand how severe the symptoms can become and the negative impact they can have on your overall quality of life. Pain in the esophagus, not to be confused with pains caused by a sore throat, such as excessive coughing or bronchitis, can be minor or they can be so severe that pain medication is needed to take the edge off.
If you have been experiencing esophagus pain for a while then you’re probably becoming pretty desperate for a cure. –Or perhaps this is a new sensation that you aren’t caring for at all and you’d like to be rid of the pain straight away. Whatever your feelings on the matter, it’s definitely worth looking into the possible causes of esophagus pain so that you can guide yourself in the right direction for treatment. Keep reading to learn about three likely causes of pain in the esophagus.
Acid reflux is the most common form of esophagus pain, and most American adults will experience this sensation at least once in their lives. Acid reflux is a condition in which acid escapes the stomach and makes its way up the esophagus. There are many causes behind acid reflux, and some causes can actually lead to an ongoing condition called gastro-esophageal reflux disease, or GERD.
Before we jump into this head-first, let’s take a minute to refresh our knowledge of the upper digestive system. As you swallow food it travels down your throat, or esophagus, and passes through a tight band of muscles called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). This sphincter remains tightened most of the time because its job is to keep stomach acid, food, and other bits you might have swallowed from leaving the stomach and reentering the esophagus.
In a perfect world, the LES will only open to allow food and liquids to pass to the stomach or to allow one to vomit. That being said, the human body doesn’t always function properly and more often than not, in cases like this it’s because of what we put into it. Once the food reaches the stomach it is broken down by acid and allowed to pass on to the intestines.
With acid reflux, something triggers or forces the LES to relax which allows bile to shoot up into the esophagus. This occurs in the form of a burning pain in the middle of the chest which soon moves up the entire esophagus. For some, the feeling is a cold-burn while for others it is general pain and discomfort of the chest that can even be topped off with the occasion “spit up” (bile).
General acid reflux can be treated with over the counter antacid products or you can treat the symptoms yourself by drinking a glass of fat-free milk or dissolving a heaping spoonful of baking soda into a glass of water and drinking the tonic quickly.
Esophagitis – Esophagus Pain
Esophagitis is another possible cause of esophagus pain. Esophagitis is less common than acid reflux, but it’s definitely still worth considering—especially if you are confident about ruling out acid reflux. Esophagitis is a condition in which the esophagus becomes inflamed.
Speaking from a biological sense, the process of inflammation is actually quite impressive; it is a physical response to something that has caught the attention of the immune system and is characterized by swelling, redness, and tenderness of the affected tissues.
Inflammation can be caused by a number of things, such as the presence of bacteria, a scratch or similar wound, and even an allergen. The symptoms associated with esophagitis include coughing spells, trouble swallowing or feeling as though you are swallowing around something, roughened voice, and pain while swallowing or speaking.
Factors that can increase one’s chances of developing esophageal inflammation are alcohol, smoking, “dry swallowing” pills, acid reflux, and frequent vomiting. Inflammation will usually clear up without formal treatment but you can certainly speed up the process and regain some comfort by taking an anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen.
The term “esophageal spasm” sounds very uncomfortable, and in most cases the reality of the condition isn’t very far from this assumption. Your esophagus is made up of different types of tissues, some of which are smooth muscles. Just like the other muscles in your body, they typically contract and relax with ease and sometimes involuntarily.
Certain situations, such as anxiety or stress, can cause the muscles to contract involuntarily—which is known as a spasm. A spasm of the esophagus can occur randomly or as several spasms in a short period of time. The pain associated with esophageal spasms is actually quite severe and is likened to strong chest pain that spread out towards the arms and even the neck and back.
Esophageal spasms are pretty uncommon and although they can occur as a standalone condition, it is more often the result of another underlying condition, such as GERD, anxiety disorders, depression, and disorders that are specific to the lower esophageal sphincter.
Treating esophageal spasms is fairly easy, but finding the cause behind this symptom can be a bit more difficult. Try to cut out smoking and excessive alcohol consumption whenever possible, lower your stress, and be proactive about controlling GERD to reduce acid reflux flare-ups.