At the MedStar Georgetown University Hospital Department of Gastroenterology, we offer expert care for a wide range of esophageal conditions.

The esophagus is a muscular tube made of several layers of tissue, muscle, and membranes. It connects the throat to the stomach, serving as a passageway for food, drink, and saliva.  Despite its simple purpose, the esophagus can be affected by many types of conditions.

Types of Esophageal Conditions

Swallowing Disorders (Dysphagia)

Esophageal motility disorders (difficulty swallowing or dysphagia) are a group of conditions that affect the ability to swallow normally.

Esophageal causes of dysphagia include GERD esophageal strictures, eosinophilic esophagitis, and issues with the esophageal muscles or nerves (esophageal motility disorders). Dysphagia also be caused by hardened esophageal tissues, tumors, or scarring caused by radiation. Dysphagia is particularly common in older patients.

Symptoms of Swallowing Disorders Include:

  • Feeling like something is stuck in the throat
  • Hoarseness or changes to the sound of your voice
  • Drooling
  • Weight loss or dehydration
  • Pain, coughing, gagging, or choking when trying to swallow

Treatments options for swallowing disorders include esophageal dilation with endoscopy to stretch the size of the esophagus, surgery to remove tumors or blockages, and medication to treat underlying causes.

Barrett’s Esophagus

Barrett's Esophagus is a change is in the tissue of the esophagus that is related to long-term acid reflux.

Patients are at heightened risk if they are male, obese, over 50 years of age, Caucasian, a current or former smoker, and/or have a diagnosis of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Patients with Barrett’s esophagus are at increased risk for a type of cancer called esophageal adenocarcinoma.

Treatment options include endoscopic eradication therapy (EET), cryoablation, radiofrequency ablation, endoscopic mucosal resection, or surgery.

Your doctor can examine the esophagus by using a thin, camera-equipped tube called an endoscope. Patients at high risk may require periodic preventative screening.

Patients who have been previously treated for Barrett’s Esophagus also require periodic follow-up exams, the frequency of which depends on the severity of the initial condition and the amount of time that has elapsed since treatment. 

Zenker’s Diverticulum

A diverticulum is a small pouch that can form in a weakened area of an organ. A Zenker’s Diverticulum is a pouch can develop on the upper esophagus, near the lower neck. The pouch become infected or inflamed. It can also grow over time, increasing the risk of pneumonia or liquid or food getting forced into the airways (aspiration).

Symptoms of Zenker's Diverticulum Include:

  • Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
  • Heartburn
  • Regurgitation of food
  • Hoarseness
  • Repeated pneumonia
  • Bad breath (halitosis)

A Zenker’s diverticulum can be treated endoscopically or surgically using procedures called diverticulectomy and myotomy.

Esophageal Stricture

Esophageal stricture is a term for the tightening or narrowing of the esophagus. This problem is associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), eosinophilic esophagitis, and hernias. It can also be a side effect of scar tissue forming after esophageal surgeries.

Symptoms of Esophageal Stricture Include:

  • Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
  • Heartburn
  • Choking, coughing, hiccups, or burping
  • A bitter taste in your mouth
  • Vomiting food or blood
  • Weight loss

There are several options available for esophageal stricture treatment

Eosinophilic Esophagitis

Eosinophilic esophagitis is a condition in which the esophagus chronically swells due to a build-up of white blood cells. Eosinophilic esophagitis can be brought on by food or environmental allergies or overuse of certain medications used to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease GERD. For some patients, the cause is not clear.

Symptoms of Eosinophilic Esophagitis Include:

  • Food getting stuck in the esophagus
  • Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
  • Heartburn that does not respond to medication
  • Chest pain
  • Weight loss
  • Regurgitation of food

Eosinophilic esophagitis can sometimes be treated with medication or dietary changes to eliminate allergens. In other cases, eosinophilic esophagitis treatment may require endoscopy to dilate (stretch) the esophagus. 

Make an Appointment

To schedule an appointment with a gastroenterology specialist, please call our scheduling line.