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Digestive Disorders

Esophagitis

04/15/2001

Question:

Is it possible to tell how bad esophagitis is based upon the amount of pain felt during swallowing?

Answer:

Painful swallowing, or odynophagia, is not a common symptom associated with reflux esophagitis, ie. inflammation or ulceration of the lining of the esophagus that results from refluxed stomach acid. With reflux esophagitis, patients complain of heartburn and/or regurgitation and the severity of symptoms does not correlate with the severity of the esophagitis, ie. patients with severe esophagitis may have minimal symptoms while those with no esophagitis may have terrible symptoms. Thus the only way to tell how severe the esophagitis is would be to examine the esophagus using endoscopy. Odynophagia is a much more common symptom that occurs in patients with `infectious` esophagitis. Infectious esophagitis most commonly occurs in patients with compromised immune systems (eg. secondary to diabetes, use of steroids, HIV, etc.).

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Response by:

John D Long, MD
Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati