Inflammation or irritation of the esophagus is known as esophagitis. It may be caused by acid reflux, bacterial or viral infections, or certain medications. Symptoms include chest pain, nausea, and heartburn.

The esophagus is the tube that sends food from your mouth to your stomach. Esophagitis is when this becomes inflamed.

Keep reading to learn more about the causes, symptoms, and treatment options of esophagitis.

Esophagitis may be classified into five different subtypes.

Reflux esophagitis

Reflux esophagitis is the most common type of esophagitis. It happens when stomach contents like acids frequently come back up into your esophagus.

It’s typically associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This causes chronic inflammation and irritation of the esophagus.

Eosinophilic esophagitis

Eosinophilic esophagitis is caused by having too many eosinophils in the esophagus. This happens when your body responds to an allergen.

Common triggers may include:

FoodEnvironmental substances
• dairy products
• wheat
• egg
• soy
• pollen
• animals
• dust mites
• mold

Some people have a higher risk of developing eosinophilic esophagitis due to certain health conditions, including:

  • chronic seasonal allergy
  • asthma
  • atopic dermatitis

Drug-induced esophagitis

Certain medications may create an acidic environment in your stomach and cause esophageal inflammation. These may include:

  • non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • antibiotics
  • ascorbic acid
  • acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • potassium chloride
  • some chemotherapies, such as dactinomycin, daunorubicin, and bleomycin
  • bisphosphonates

Drug-induced esophagitis may also occur if you take medications without drinking enough water, or if you take them while lying down.

Infectious esophagitis

Infectious esophagitis is rare. It’s most commonly caused by:

  • Candida, which is a type of fungus
  • herpes simplex virus, which is a viral infection
  • cytomegalovirus, which is a type of herpes virus
  • human papillomavirus (HPV), which is a sexually transmitted infection (STI)

You have an increased risk for this type of esophagitis if you have a weakened immune system due to disease or medications. This type is common in people living with HIV or AIDS, cancer, and diabetes.

Radiation esophagitis

Radiation esophagitis occurs as a complication of radiation therapy for cancer. The most common cancers include breast, lymphoma, and lung cancers.

Radiation therapy kills cells in your body, which may cause inflammation and the development of free radicals. These have been associated with several health conditions, such as diabetes and cancer.

Symptoms of radiation esophagitis may develop within 2-3 weeks of radiation treatment.

Symptoms of esophagitis include:

Speak with a doctor if you or a child experiences the following:

  • shortness of breath, especially if it does not occur while eating
  • symptoms that continue for more than a few days
  • symptoms that are severe enough to interfere with your ability to eat properly
  • headache, muscle aches, or fever

When to seek medical attention

Seek immediate medical attention if you:

  • have chest pain lasting more than a few minutes, especially if you have a history of heart problems, elevated blood pressure, or diabetes
  • have food stuck in your esophagus
  • are unable to consume even small sips of water
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A doctor will evaluate your symptoms and perform a physical and medical history examination. They may also order diagnostic tests, such as:

These can help specify the type of esophagitis you may have and eliminate other conditions with similar symptoms. Some of these conditions may include:

  • acute coronary syndrome
  • peptic ulcer disease
  • esophageal rings and webs
  • pneumonia
  • pulmonary embolism
  • achalasia

A doctor may also perform allergy testing, which may include skin tests.

Risk factors for developing esophagitis may include:

  • weakened immune system due to certain conditions, such as HIV or AIDS, diabetes, or leukemia
  • hiatal hernia
  • chemotherapy
  • radiation therapy of the chest
  • surgery in the chest area
  • medications to prevent organ transplant rejection
  • immunosuppressive medications used to treat autoimmune diseases
  • aspirin and anti-inflammatory medications
  • chronic vomiting
  • obesity
  • alcohol and cigarette use
  • a family history of allergies or esophagitis

Your chance of developing an infection of the esophagus is low if you have a strong immune system.

Your treatment plan will depend on the cause, severity, and type of esophagitis you have.


Proton pump inhibitors and H2 receptor blockers are two types of medications that are typically used as first line treatments to help relieve symptoms of acid reflux.

Other over-the-counter (OTC) medications that may help relieve symptoms include:

  • antiviral medications
  • antifungal medications
  • antacids
  • pain relievers
  • oral steroids

If your symptoms of esophagitis are caused by taking certain medications, speak with a doctor about alternatives. You may be required to:

  • drink more water
  • take a liquid version of the medication
  • use a different medication
  • refrain from lying down for 30 minutes after taking any medication

Dietary and lifestyle modifications

If food allergies cause your condition, you must identify trigger foods and eliminate them from your diet. The most common food allergens include:

  • cow’s milk
  • eggs
  • wheat
  • peanuts
  • tree nuts
  • shellfish

Other common dietary triggers that you may want to avoid if you have esophagitis include:

  • spicy or fatty foods
  • acidic foods and drinks
  • raw or hard foods
  • alcohol and tobacco
  • chocolate

Speak with a healthcare professional about your dietary requirements. They may also suggest lifestyle changes, such as losing weight or sleeping with the head of your bed elevated between 30-45 degrees.

You may require a procedure to dilate the esophagus if it becomes too narrow.

Untreated esophagitis can lead to serious health complications related to the function and structure of your esophagus. Some complications may include:

How long does it take esophagitis to heal?

Esophagitis may take up to 8 weeks to heal with proper treatment. However, chronic esophagitis may require life-long management.

What naturally heals esophagitis?

Some natural home remedies may help relieve symptoms of esophagitis, including:

  • staying hydrated
  • managing your weight
  • not lying down for 30 minutes after eating
  • avoiding trigger foods, beverages, and allergens

How serious is esophagitis?

If left untreated, esophagitis may lead to ulcers, scarring, and severe narrowing of the esophagus which can be a medical emergency. Speak with a doctor if you experience any symptoms.

Esophagitis is when your esophagus becomes inflamed or irritated. This may cause symptoms such as heartburn, chest pain, and trouble swallowing.

Early treatment and lifestyle modifications are typically enough to help relieve symptoms and prevent any serious complications.