Medical Specialties: Allergy/immunology, Family practice, Gastroenterology

Clinical Definition

Esophagitis is a swelling and irritation of the esophagus. As a result, swallowing can be painful or difficult. Causes can include acid reflux, vomiting, medications, infections and an allergy-associated condition known as eosinophilic esophagitis. 

In Our Own Words

Esophagitis is inflammation and irritation of the esophagus (i.e. the tube that transports liquids and food from the mouth to the stomach), which can make swallowing difficult or painful. It can affect those with gastroesophageal reflux disease, in which the stomach acid flows back into and irritates the esophagus. Esophagitis also may occur after vomiting or with use of certain medicines, including aspirin and anti-inflammatories. The latter is sometimes referred to as “pill esophagitis.”


Another type, eosinophilic esophagitis, is named after eosinophils, white blood cells that move in to the esophagus and trigger the inflammation. This form is associated with allergies and asthma, and its incidence appears to be on the rise. Esophagitis from infectious causes is usually due to impaired immunity.

Relevant Conditions
Common Types
  • Reflux
  • Eosinophilic
  • NSAID/pill
Side Effects
  • Painful swallowing
  • Heartburn
  • Acid regurgitation
Share this article
  • Harvard Medical School. "Medical Dictionary of Health Terms." Accessed August 2013.
  • American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. "Eosiniphilic Esophagitis (EoE)." Accessed August 2013.
  • Cleveland Clinic. "Esophagitis." Accessed August 2013.
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