Esophageal stricture is a narrowing of the esophagus, the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach. It is most commonly caused by longstanding irritation of the esophageal lining from reflux of stomach acid. Strictures may also be caused by cancer, radiation therapy or the ingestion of caustic liquids such as lye.
Patients with an esophageal stricture typically complain of difficulty swallowing solid food (dysphagia). Liquids will pass easily but larger pieces of solid food will not pass through the narrowed segment of the esophagus.
The diagnosis is made by barium x-ray studies or by passing a flexible tube through the mouth into the esophagus to directly visualize the lining of the esophagus (endoscopy).
Dysphagia resulting from a noncancerous esophageal stricture will typically respond to stretching or dilatation of the narrowed esophageal segment.