Your esophagus is a muscular tube that runs between your throat and stomach. Spanning nearly a foot long, it contracts to help move food into your stomach after you swallow.
Esophageal varices means the veins in your esophagus are enlarged and balloon out. What’s causing the blood vessels to swell is too much blood for their fragile size.
The leading cause of esophageal varices is cirrhosis. When blockage problems prevent normal blood flow through your liver, then blood gets backed up. This overflow of blood is forced into smaller veins, i.e. esophagus, stomach or rectum.
Other causes for esophageal varices are:
- Budd-Chiari syndrome
- severe congestive heart failure
- thrombosis in portal or splenic vein
In addition to cirrhosis, any other chronic liver disease can cause esophageal varices as well.
Many cases of esophageal varices have no associative symptoms. When this health condition does cause symptoms, they’re usually an outcome of esophagus bleeding out of your enlarged veins, like:
In severe cases of esophagus bleeding, going into shock is a possibility.
The primary esophageal varices treatment is to stop or prevent your bleeding symptoms. If your esophagus is bleeding, then treatment may involve:
- balloon tamponade
- administer clotting drugs
- put a rubber band around bleeding veins
- vasoconstriction medication ~ octreotide, vasopressin
- inject solution that shrinks vessels ~ can lead to dysphagia
If these treatments fail to stop relentless esophagus bleeding, then surgery entailing shunts or esophagus removal may be necessary.
Esophageal varices treatment used to prevent bleeding includes:
- beta blockers
- rubber banding enlarged veins
- transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt ~ can lead to liver failure, encephalopathy caused by toxins
If severe liver disease is causing your varices, then a liver transplant will help resolve your esophagus problems.