Merck Manual

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Esophageal Webs

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

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

Although rare, esophageal webs occur most often in people who have untreated severe iron deficiency anemia Iron Deficiency Anemia Iron deficiency anemia results from low or depleted stores of iron, which is needed to produce red blood cells. Excessive bleeding is the most common cause. People may be weak, short of breath... read more . Why anemia is associated with the development of webs is unknown. Webs in the upper esophagus usually make swallowing solids difficult.

A barium swallow X-Ray Studies of the Digestive Tract X-rays often are used to evaluate digestive problems. Standard x-rays (plain x-rays) do not require any special preparation (see Plain X-Rays). These x-rays usually can show a blockage or paralysis... read more x-ray is usually the best procedure with which to diagnose the problem. In this procedure, people are given barium in a liquid before x-rays are taken. The barium outlines the esophagus, making abnormalities easier to see.

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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