The esophagus Throat and Esophagus The throat (pharynx) lies behind and below the mouth. When food and fluids leave the mouth, they pass through the throat. Swallowing of food and fluids begins voluntarily and continues automatically... read more is the hollow tube that leads from the throat (pharynx) to the stomach. (See also Overview of the Esophagus Overview of the Esophagus The esophagus is the hollow tube that leads from the throat (pharynx) to the stomach. Food does not just fall through the esophagus into the stomach. The walls of the esophagus propel food to... read more .)
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.
In healthy people, these defenses prevent infection. However, people who have impaired defenses, such as those who have HIV, 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 Use Alcohol (ethanol) is a depressant (it slows down brain and nervous system functioning). Consuming large amounts rapidly or regularly can cause health problems, including organ damage, coma,... 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. Symptoms of diabetes may... 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 , 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 , are at risk of infection. 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. This skin infection may cause rashes, scaling, itching, and swelling. Doctors examine... read more may occur in any of these people.
Herpes simplex virus infection 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 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 of the esophagus occur mainly in people who have HIV or who have had an organ transplant and are taking medications that suppress the immune system.
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Symptoms of Esophageal 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).
Esophageal infections also cause ulcers (sores) and irritation and swelling of the esophagus (esophagitis).
Diagnosis of Esophageal Infection
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. This skin infection may cause rashes, scaling, itching, and swelling. Doctors examine... read more ) 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). In addition to examinations, doctors can use endoscopy to do biopsies and give treatment. Endoscopes... read more ). During endoscopy, doctors usually remove tissue for examination under a microscope (biopsy).
Treatment of Esophageal Infection
For Candida infection, antifungals
For herpes simplex virus or cytomegalovirus infection, antivirals
People with Candida are given an antifungal such as fluconazole. The medication 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 antivirals such as acyclovir, valacyclovir, or famciclovir. They are given by mouth or by injection into a vein.
People with cytomegalovirus infection are given antivirals such as ganciclovir given by injection into a vein or valganciclovir given by mouth.
Drugs Mentioned In This Article
|Select Brand Names
|Sitavig, Zovirax, Zovirax Cream, Zovirax Ointment, Zovirax Powder, Zovirax Suspension
|Cytovene, Vitrasert, Zirgan
|Valcyte, Valcyte Powder