The esophagus Throat and Esophagus The throat (pharynx— see also Throat) 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... 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. 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 , 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... read more 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 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...
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 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. Candidiasis may cause rashes, scaling, itching, and swelling. Doctors examine the... 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). 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 Esophageal Infection
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.