Overview of Esophagitis

The esophagus is the hollow, muscular organ that carries food and liquids from the throat to the stomach. The esophagus is part of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, or digestive system. Esophagitis (pronounced ē-sŏf-ă-jī′tĭs) is a term used to describe inflammation (e.g., pain, swelling, irritation) in the lining of the esophagus.

There are a number of different types of esophagitis, depending on the cause for the condition. Types of esophagitis include the following:

  • Chemical esophagitis (also called medication- or pill-induced esophagitis; usually occurs in patients who are bedridden and take oral medicines regularly)
  • Corrosive esophagitis (occurs as a result of ingesting caustic substances, such as household cleaning agents)
  • Eosinophilic esophagitis (caused by large numbers of eosinophils [type of white blood cells that helps fight infection] that accumulate in the esophageal lining; more common in patients who have allergic conditions [e.g., asthma, eczema])
  • Infectious esophagitis (results from a viral, bacterial, fungal, or parasitic infection; more common in patients who have a weakened immune system [e.g., patients with HIV/AIDS or cancer])
  • Radiation esophagitis (caused by high-dose radiation therapy [used to destroy cancer cells] to the head, neck, and chest area)
  • Reflux esophagitis (results from chronic acid reflux; e.g., gastroesophageal reflux disease [GERD])

Esophagitis Incidence and Prevalence

The exact incidence of esophagitis is unknown. The condition is more common in adults than in children. Some types of esophagitis occur more often in patients with medical conditions that affect the immune system (e.g., HIV/AIDS, cancer).

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 16 Apr 2008

Last Modified: 14 Sep 2015