Inflammation of the esophagus (esophagitis)

Inflammation of the esophagus (esophagitis)

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Inflammation of the esophagus can be acute or chronic. Most often, a chronically inflamed esophagus is caused by repeated reflux, but sometimes it is also infectious or mechanical. If chemical burns or sharp-edged objects cause burns, acute esophagitis is an emergency.

Typical symptom: heartburn

Symptoms of inflammation of the esophagus can include

  • Heartburn,
  • acid regurgitation,
  • Difficulty swallowing or
  • Burning behind the breastbone.

The symptoms usually appear more intensely after eating, bending down, pressing and lying down. Sometimes ulcers form. Persistent inflammation can also lead to an atypical change in the esophageal mucosa (Barrett's esophagus), which may pave the way for an esophageal carcinoma (so-called precancerous disease).

Causes of inflammation

Chronic inflammation of the esophagus usually arises from the chronic reflux of acidic, aggressive stomach contents into the esophagus, also known as reflux disease. If the mucous membrane of the esophagus is attacked, this leads to inflammatory processes. This so-called reflux esophagitis is the most common esophageal disease.

Infectious esophagitis can be caused by both bacteria, viruses and fungi. It is most commonly caused by the yeast Candida albicans (thrush oesophagitis). Other diseases can also be the cause of an esophageal disease. These include:

  • Sinusitis,
  • Tonsillitis,
  • Bronchitis,
  • Scarlet fever and
  • Diphtheria.

There are many physical causes for infectious esophagitis. Injuries to the esophagus caused by ingestion of foreign bodies such as fish bones or fruit kernels can be the trigger, but also radiation consequences or examinations using a gastric tube.

Inflammation of the esophagus occurs acutely by swallowing caustic acids or alkalis. In this case, an ambulance must be organized or quickly requested from the responsible poison control center. Affected people should not be made to vomit, as further burns can occur elsewhere.

Conventional, naturopathic and general measures

The treatment is mostly based on drug therapy, but in addition naturopathic approaches and general measures can also be helpful.

Classical medicine

Conventionally, acid inhibitors (antacids), preparations to promote gastric emptying and medications that increase the muscle tone of the stomach entrance are used. Surgically, the stomach entrance is narrowed if there are complications or no improvement from medication.


In naturopathic practice, means for symptomatic treatment, namely healing earth or base powder, are also used for acute relief. In addition, mucous and tannin-rich medicinal plants are used to protect the mucous membrane, as well as anti-inflammatory, digestive and muscle-strengthening plant drugs. A tea made from yarrow, calamus root and chamomile can help to heal an inflamed esophagus.

General measures

Symptom-enhancing drugs such as Antirheumatic drugs should be discontinued (temporarily) in consultation with the doctor treating you. By taking general measures, particularly regarding sleeping and eating behavior, the conditions for the development of reflux disease are reduced. There are also various options for self-treatment of heartburn in naturopathy.

Mechanical influence

The stomach is attached to the diaphragm. In stressful conditions, those affected always remain inhaled. This means that the diaphragm is under tension and can transmit it to the stomach. Presumably, the pacemaker cells for gastric acid production in the upper two thirds of the stomach can become irritated and release more acid. A mechanical relief of this region in the form of relaxation could be achieved by exhaling.

In osteopathy, pressure on the diaphragm brings it into a more relaxed exhalation position. An audible and perceptible reaction can often already take place during this time. In the long term, it is important for those affected to help the area to function harmoniously without complaints by exhaling more intensely. Since there is a mechanical (esophagus runs between the cervical spine and diaphragm) and nerve (nerve of the diaphragm comes from the 3rd to 5th cervical vertebrae) connection between the diaphragm-stomach transition, the conditions in the cervical spine must also be examined and treated if necessary. (jvs, tf, ok)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Jeanette ViƱals Stein, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch


  • Merck & Co., Inc .: Eosinophilic Esophagitis (accessed: July 24, 2019), msdmanuals.com
  • Messmann, Helmut: Clinical Gastroenterology, Thieme, 2011
  • Professional association of German internists e.V .: symptoms of an esophageal inflammation (available: July 24, 2019), internisten-im-netz.de
  • Mayo Clinic: Esophagitis (access: July 24, 2019), mayoclinic.org
  • German Society for Gastroenterology, Digestive and Metabolic Diseases e.V. (DGVS): S2k Guideline Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, status: May 2014, detailed view of guidelines
  • The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Acid Reflux (GER & GERD) in Adults (accessed: July 24, 2019), niddk.nih.gov
  • Harvard Health Publishing: Esophagitis (accessed: July 24, 2019), health.harvard.edu
  • Cleveland Clinic: Esophagitis (accessed: July 24, 2019), my.clevelandclinic.org

ICD codes for this disease: K20, K21ICD codes are internationally valid encodings for medical diagnoses. You can find e.g. in doctor's letters or on disability certificates.

Video: Diagnosis and Treatment for Esophageal and Motility Disorders Video - Brigham and Womens Hospital (February 2023).