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The esophagus is the tube that allows food to pass from the mouth to the stomach. An esophageal stricture is a narrowing of the esophagus. It has many causes including acid reflux, eosinophilia esophagitis (i.e., inflammation of the esophagus), injuries caused by medical procedures, long-term use of nasogastric tubes (i.e., a tube that passes through the nose to the stomach) and swallowing harmful substances (e.g., household cleaners, lye). Cancer can also lead to narrowing of the esophagus. Common symptoms of esophageal stricture include difficulty swallowing, pain with swallowing, unintended weight loss and regurgitation of food.
If a healthcare provider suspects that a person has an esophageal stricture, the provider may have the patient undergo barium swallow or an endoscopy to look for narrowing of the esophagus. Barium swallow utilizes liquid called barium to outline the esophagus on X-ray.
Treatment depends on the cause of the stricture. For many cases, dilation or stretching of the esophagus is performed, but this may need to be repeated if the stricture forms again. Medications that block the formation of acid or anti-inflammatory medications may be prescribed to keep the stricture from reforming. Surgery is rarely needed.