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Esophageal Webs

(Plummer-Vinson Syndrome; Paterson-Kelly Syndrome; Sideropenic Dysphagia)

By Michael C. DiMarino, MD, Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Department of Medicine, Thomas Jefferson University

Esophageal webs are thin membranes that grow across the inside of the upper one third of the esophagus from its surface lining (mucosa).

Although rare, esophageal webs occur most often in people who have untreated severe iron deficiency anemia (see Iron Deficiency Anemia). Why anemia leads to the development of webs is unknown. Webs in the upper esophagus usually make swallowing solids difficult. A barium swallow x-ray(see X-Ray Studies) is usually the best procedure with which to diagnose the problem.

Once the iron deficiency has been treated, the web usually disappears. If not, a doctor can rupture it using a dilator or an endoscope.

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