Esophagitis (uh-sof-uh-JIE-tis) is inflammation that may damage tissues of the esophagus, the muscular tube that delivers food from your mouth to your stomach.

Esophagitis can cause painful, difficult swallowing and chest pain. Causes of esophagitis include stomach acids backing up into the esophagus, infection, oral medications and allergies.

Treatments for esophagitis depend on the underlying cause and the severity of tissue damage. If left untreated, esophagitis can damage the lining, interfere with normal function and lead to complications such as scarring, stricture and difficulty swallowing.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications

Common signs and symptoms of esophagitis include:

  • Difficult swallowing
  • Painful swallowing
  • Chest pain, particularly behind the breastbone, that occurs with eating
  • Swallowed food becoming stuck in the esophagus (food impaction)
  • Heartburn
  • Acid regurgitation

In young children, particularly those too young to explain their discomfort or pain, signs of esophagitis may include:

  • Feeding difficulties
  • Failure to thrive

When to see a doctor

Most signs and symptoms of esophagitis can be caused by a number of different conditions affecting the digestive system. See your doctor if signs or symptoms:

  • Last more than a few days
  • Don't improve or go away with over-the-counter antacids
  • Are severe enough to make eating difficult
  • Are accompanied by flu signs and symptoms, such as headache, fever and muscle aches
  • Are accompanied by shortness of breath or chest pain that occurs shortly after eating

Get emergency care if you:

  • Experience pain in your chest that lasts more than a few minutes
  • Suspect you have food lodged in your esophagus
  • Have a history of heart disease and experience chest pain

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