Scleroderma of the Esophagus

Systemic scleroderma is an autoimmune disorder, where the body mistakenly attacks itself, characterized by thickening of the skin and formation of scar tissues on the internal organs.

One of the symptoms of systemic scleroderma is abnormal functioning of the smooth muscle of the esophagus, in a condition called esophageal scleroderma or scleroderma of the esophagus.

Symptoms of Esophageal Scleroderma

The symptoms of scleroderma of the esophagus are:

  • Heartburn or acid reflux
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Feeling of food stuck in the throat
  • Chest pain
  • Weight loss and malnutrition

Acid reflux is a particularly common symptom of esophageal scleroderma. Over time, the smooth muscle of the lower esophagus loses its ability to contract and stomach acid seeps into the esophagus.

Esophageal Scleroma Diagnosis

Your doctor would perform the following tests:

  • Endoscopy
    Signs: abnormality in the tone and function of the smooth muscle in the lower esophagus and damage in its lining due to acid reflux.

  • Manometry
    Signs: weakened contractions in the lower sphincter of the esophagus.

  • Radionuclide transit test

Treatment of Scleroderma of the Esophagus

There is no cure for systemic scleroderma – instead, the treatment focus is to reduce the risks of acid reflux from damaging the esophagus:

  • Eating small meals frequently, rather than a single large meal.

  • Standing or sitting up for 1 to 3 hours after eating to keep stomach content and stomach acid from backing up into the esophagus.

  • Avoiding things that can aggravate acid reflux, such as eating spicy and fatty food, as well as drinking alcohol and caffeine.

  • Chewing food well

  • Taking heartburn medications, including proton pump inhibitors to reduce stomach acid formation.

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