Esophageal disorders affect your esophagus, the tube that carries food from your mouth to your stomach. The most common type is GERD. Disorders like GERD, achalasia and Barrett’s esophagus cause heartburn or swallowing problems and increase your risk for esophageal cancer. Medications, along with dietary and lifestyle changes, can help.

What are esophageal disorders?
Esophageal disorders are a collection of conditions that affect how the esophagus works. Your esophagus — or the food pipe — is the part of the digestive system that helps food travel from your mouth to your stomach.

Different diseases can affect the esophagus, causing dysphagia or difficulty swallowing. The most common esophageal disorder is gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD). GERD is the condition in which excessive stomach acid moves back into the esophagus (acid reflux), causing inflammation.

What are the risk factors for esophageal disorders?
Factors that increase the chances of developing an esophageal disorder include:

  • Alcohol use.
  • Extra weight due to obesity or pregnancy.
  • Medications, including certain antibiotics, antidepressants and pain relievers.
  • Radiation therapy to your neck or chest.
  • Smoking, including exposure to secondhand smoke.

What are the symptoms of esophageal disorders?
Symptoms vary depending on the type of esophageal disorder. You may experience:

  • Abdominal pain, chest pain or back pain.
  • Chronic cough or sore throat.
  • Difficulty swallowing or feeling like food is stuck in your throat.
  • Heartburn (burning feeling in your chest).
  • Hoarseness or wheezing.
  • Indigestion (burning feeling in your stomach).
  • Regurgitation (stomach acid or contents coming back up your esophagus to your mouth) or vomiting.
  • Unexplained weight loss.

If you are experiencing one of these symptoms, call your doctor immediately.

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