Your esophagus is a tube that goes from your throat in the back of your mouth to your stomach. When you swallow, food and drink go down through your esophagus.
Muscles in the esophagus contract and relax to push food along. The esophagus produces mucous (fluid) to help food move along more easily. There is a muscular valve (sphincter) at the top and the bottom of the esophagus. These open and close as needed to allow food to pass to the next step in the digestive tract. These valves also help to make sure acids and fluids from the stomach do not get into the esophagus.
When parts of the esophagus don't work they way they should, you can have a problem including:
- Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) – When stomach acid frequently backs up and irritates the esophagus; it causes an acid feeling in the throat or stomach or heartburn
- Heartburn – burning feeling in the chest that happens when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus
- Barrett's esophagus – Caused by long-term exposure of the lower esophagus to stomach acid; it happens more frequently if you have had gastroesophageal reflex (GERD) or heartburn for a long time
- Hiatus hernia/hiatal hernia – When part of the stomach comes up through the diaphragm due to a weak muscle between the diaphragm and stomach; it can allow stomach acid to back up into the esophagus and cause heartburn
- Peptic ulcer disease – When the mucous lining of the esophagus, stomach or small intestine is eaten away by acid, and a sore develops
Our gastroenterology specialists are experienced in treating every condition of the esophagus.