of reducing pain and providing nursing
care until the oesophagus heals.
Reflux oesophagitis is due to poor
function of the muscles in the lower
oesophagus, which permits the stom-
ach's acidic contents to rise back into
the oesophagus (see
main symptom, heartburn, may be wor-
sened by alcohol, smoking, and obesity.
Poor function of the lower oesophagus
may be linked with a
Treatment focuses on diet and lifestyle
help to reduce
acidity. Surgical treatment may be nec-
essary for a hiatus hernia.
Barrett's oesophagus, a complication
of reflux oesophagitis, may lead to can-
cer. Severe, chronic oesophagitis can
examination of the upper digestive tract
and stomach using
tion of the
oesophagus The muscular tube that
carries food to the stomach; a part of
the digestive tract (see
The top end has a sphincter muscle that
opens to allow the passage of food; a
similar sphincter operates where the
oesophagus joins the stomach.
propels food and liquids down
towards the stomach and intestines for
digestion. (See also
oesophagus, cancer of A malignant
tumour, most common in people over
, that mainly affects the middle or
and leads to swallow-
Smoking and heavy
alcohol intake are risk factors.
Symptoms progressively worsen to a
point where food is immediately regur-
gitated and there is rapid weight loss.
Regurgitated fluid spilling into the
often causes respiratory infections.
Diagnosis is with a barium swallow (see
barium X-ray examinations)
. Removal of the
oesophagus may be possible in some
may cause regres-
sion of the cancer, relieve symptoms,
and occasionally cure older patients who
might not survive major surgery. Inser-
tion of a rigid tube through the tumour,
or laser treatment to burn through it, can
help to relieve symptoms and improve
nutrition. The overall outlook is poor,
but is improved with early diagnosis.
disorders, most of which cause swal-
lowing difficulties and/or chest pain.
Infections of the oesophagus are rare
but may occur in immunosuppressed
patients. The most common are
is usually due to reflux of
stomach contents, causing heartburn.
Corrosive oesophagitis can occur as a
result of swallowing caustic chemicals.
Both may cause an
Congenital defects include
, which requires surgery soon
after birth. Tumours of the oesophagus
are quite common; about
per cent are
oesophagus, cancer of).
Injury to the oesophagus is most com-
monly caused by a tear or rupture due
to severe vomiting and retching. (See
oestrogen drugs A group of synthetic-
ally produced drugs that are used in
and to supplement or re-
place the body's own