If you're experiencing severe chest pain that lasts more than a few minutes or if you suspect you have food lodged in your esophagus or are unable to swallow, get emergency medical care.
If you have other signs or symptoms of esophagitis, you'll likely start by seeing your primary care doctor. For some diagnostic tests, your doctor may refer you to a specialist in digestive system disorders (gastroenterologist) or an allergy specialist (allergist). Preparing for your appointment with your doctor or a specialist will help you make the best use of your time.
What you can do
Make a list ahead of time that you can share with your doctor. Your list should include:
- Symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to pain, difficulty swallowing or reflux
- Key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes
- Medications that you're taking, including vitamins and other supplements
- Family history of allergies and disorders of the esophagus or stomach
- Questions to ask your doctor
List questions for your doctor from most important to least important in case time runs out. If you think you have signs or symptoms of esophagitis, you may ask some of the following questions.
- What tests will I need to diagnose the condition?
- Do these tests require any special preparation?
- How long will it take to find out the results of tests?
- What treatments are available, and which do you recommend?
- How will we know if the treatment is working?
- Will I need follow-up tests?
- What steps can I take on my own to prevent a recurrence of the symptoms?
- I have other medical conditions. How can I best manage these conditions together?
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may reserve time to go over points you want to spend more time on. Your doctor may ask:
- How severe is your pain or discomfort?
- Do you have difficulty swallowing?
- How often do you experience symptoms?
- Does anything seem to prompt or worsen symptoms, such as certain foods?
- Does anything lessen symptoms, such as taking over-the-counter antacids or avoiding certain foods?
- Are symptoms worse at certain times of the day?
- Do your symptoms begin shortly after taking any medications? If so, which medications?
- Do you have any allergies, and do you take any allergy medication?
- Have you ever had food get stuck in your throat after swallowing?
- Do you ever have food come back up after swallowing?
- Do you have a family history of gastrointestinal problems?
What you can do in the meantime
If you know that certain foods trigger or worsen symptoms, avoid them. Common culprits include caffeine-containing drinks, alcohol or spicy foods. Taking over-the-counter antacids may provide short-term relief of symptoms.
If you suspect that your symptoms are related to a prescription medication, don't stop taking the drug without first talking to your doctor. If possible, limit the use of over-the-counter medications that could be causing problems. When you take pills, drink a glass of water and avoid lying down immediately afterward.
Sep. 13, 2014
- Bleeding in the digestive tract. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/DDISEASES/pubs/bleeding/. Accessed July 11, 2014.
- Heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux (GER), and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/gerd/index.aspx. Accessed July 10, 2014.
- Castell DO. Medication-induced esophagitis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed July 10, 2014.
- Bope ET, et al. Conn's Current Therapy. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2014. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Jan. 2, 2014.
- Ek WE, et al. Germline genetic contributions to risk for esophageal adenocarcinoma, Barrett's esophagus, and gastroesophageal reflux. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 2013;105:1711.
- Feldman M, et al. Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease: Pathophysiology, Diagnosis, Management. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2010. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed July 11, 2014.
- Almashat SJ, et al. Non-reflux esophagitis: A review of inflammatory diseases of the esophagus exclusive of reflux esophagitis. Seminars in Diagnostic Pathology. 2014;31:89.
- Kauffman CA. Clinical manifestations of oropharyngeal and esophageal candidiasis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed July 10, 2014.
- Goldman L, et al. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2012. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed July 16, 2014.
- Medical Edge from Mayo Clinic. Hard to Swallow — EOE. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2014. http://www.mayoclinic.org/medical-edge/. Accessed March 9, 2014.
- Picco MF (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, Fla. April 24, 2011.
- Safe use of complementary health products and practices. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/safety. Accessed Jan. 5, 2014.
- Best hospitals. U.S. News & World Report. http://health.usnews.com/best-hospitals/area/mn/mayo-clinic-661MAYO. Accessed Sept. 2, 2014.
- Geagea A, et al. Scope of drug-induced, infectious and allergic esophageal injury. Current Opinion in Gastroenterology. 2008;24:496.
- Dellon ES, et al. ACG clinical guideline: Evidenced based approach to the diagnosis and management of esophageal eosinophilia and eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE). The American Journal of Gastroenterology. 2013;108:679.
- Katz PO, et al. Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of gastroesophageal reflux disease. American Journal of Gastroenterology. 2013;108:308.
- Eosinophilic esophagitis. American Academy of Asthma, Allergy & Immunology. http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/related-conditions/eosinophilic-esophagitis.aspx. Accessed July 17, 2014.
- Estores D, et al. Barrett esophagus: Epidemiology, pathogenesis, diagnosis, and management. Current Problems in Surgery. 2013;50:192.
- Kahrilas PJ. Medical management of gastroesophageal reflux disease in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 1, 2014.
- Tomizawa Y, et al. Assessment of the diagnostic performance and interobserver variability of endocytoscopy in Barrett's esophagus: A pilot ex-vivo study. World Journal of Gastroenterology. 2013;19:8652.
- Lipham JC, et al. The LINX® reflux management system: Confirmed safety and efficacy now at 4 years. Surgical Endoscopy. 2012;26:2944.
- Ravi K (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Aug. 15, 2014.
- Rakel D. Integrative Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2012. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Jan. 2, 2014.
- Patrick L. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): A review of conventional and alternative treatments. Alternative Medicine Review. 2011;16:116.
You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.