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Infection of the Esophagus

By

Kristle Lee Lynch

, MD, Perelman School of Medicine at The University of Pennsylvania

Last full review/revision Oct 2020| Content last modified Oct 2020
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Topic Resources

Infection of the esophagus occurs mainly in people who have impaired defense mechanisms that protect the esophagus from infection. The main causes of infection are Candida albicans, herpes simplex virus, and cytomegalovirus.

There are several defense mechanisms that protect the esophagus against infection. These defenses include saliva, the normal movement (contractions) of the esophagus, and the cells of the immune system. Thus, people at risk of infection include those who have AIDS, an organ transplant Complications After Transplantation Transplantation is the removal of living, functioning cells, tissues, or organs from the body and then their transfer back into the same body or into a different body. The most common type of... read more , alcohol use disorder Alcohol Alcohol (ethanol) is a depressant. Consuming large amounts rapidly or regularly can cause health problems, including organ damage, coma, and death. Genetics and personal characteristics may... read more , diabetes Diabetes Mellitus (DM) Diabetes mellitus is a disorder in which the body does not produce enough or respond normally to insulin, causing blood sugar (glucose) levels to be abnormally high. Urination and thirst are... read more , a weakened or impaired immune system, undernutrition Undernutrition Undernutrition is a deficiency of calories or of one or more essential nutrients. Undernutrition may develop because people cannot obtain or prepare food, have a disorder that makes eating or... read more Undernutrition , cancer, or movement (motility) disorders of the esophagus Abnormal Propulsion of Food The movement of food from mouth to stomach requires normal and coordinated action of the mouth and throat, propulsive waves of muscular contractions of the esophagus (called peristalsis), and... read more . Additionally, swallowed or inhaled corticosteroids may put people at increased risk of infection of the esophagus. Candida infection Candidiasis (Yeast Infection) Candidiasis is infection with the yeast Candida. Candidiasis tends to occur in moist areas of the skin. Candidiasis may cause rashes, scaling, itching, and swelling. Doctors examine the affected... read more Candidiasis (Yeast Infection) may occur in any of these people. Herpes simplex virus infections Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) Infections Herpes simplex virus infection causes recurring episodes of small, painful, fluid-filled blisters on the skin, mouth, lips (cold sores), eyes, or genitals. This very contagious viral infection... read more Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) Infections and cytomegalovirus infection Cytomegalovirus (CMV) Infection Cytomegalovirus infection is a common herpesvirus infection with a wide range of symptoms: from no symptoms to fever and fatigue (resembling infectious mononucleosis) to severe symptoms involving... read more occur mainly in people who have AIDS or who have had an organ transplant and are taking drugs that suppress the immune system.

Did You Know...

  • Saliva helps protect the esophagus from infection.

Pain with swallowing (odynophagia) is the typical symptom. Some people also notice difficulty swallowing Difficulty Swallowing Some people have difficulty swallowing (dysphagia). In dysphagia, foods and/or liquids do not move normally from the throat (pharynx) to the stomach. People feel as though food or liquids become... read more (dysphagia). These infections also cause ulcers (sores) and irritation and swelling of the esophagus (esophagitis).

Diagnosis of Infection of the Esophagus

  • Endoscopy

Sometimes, the doctor can see signs of Candida infection in the mouth (thrush Candidiasis (Yeast Infection) Candidiasis is infection with the yeast Candida. Candidiasis tends to occur in moist areas of the skin. Candidiasis may cause rashes, scaling, itching, and swelling. Doctors examine the affected... read more Candidiasis (Yeast Infection) ) in people who have Candida infection of the esophagus. Usually there are no abnormalities in the mouth of people with herpes simplex virus infections or cytomegalovirus infection.

To diagnose an infection of the esophagus, usually the doctor looks down the esophagus using a flexible viewing tube (endoscopy Endoscopy Endoscopy is an examination of internal structures using a flexible viewing tube (endoscope). Endoscopy can also be used to treat many disorders because doctors are able to pass instruments... read more ). During endoscopy, doctors usually remove tissue for examination under a microscope (biopsy).

Treatment of Infection of the Esophagus

  • For Candida infection, antifungal drugs

  • For herpes simplex virus infections or cytomegalovirus, antiviral drugs

People with Candida are given an antifungal drug such as fluconazole. The drug is given as a pill or, if people are having trouble swallowing, it can be given by injection into a vein.

People with herpes simplex virus infections are given antiviral drugs such as acyclovir given by mouth or by injection into a vein. People with cytomegalovirus infection are given antiviral drugs such as ganciclovir given by injection into a vein.

Drugs Mentioned In This Article

Generic Name Select Brand Names
CYTOVENE
DIFLUCAN
ZOVIRAX
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