Burning sensation in the esophagus


The feeling that the esophagus burn is very common, occurring at least once in up to 20 percent of the population. Often the reason for this is acid rising from the stomach.

Diseases of the esophagus are right frequently. Almost everyone feels a more or less intense burning sensation in the esophagus at least once in the course of their life. This can be due to a variety of different diseases. In most cases, the conditions that cause a burning sensation in the esophagus can be treated well with simple home remedies. People who experience a burning sensation in the esophagus for a long time should still consult a specialist. If the underlying problem is not diagnosed in a timely manner and appropriate treatment is instituted, a burning esophagus can lead to serious complications. Usually a burn in the esophagus is caused by damage to the esophagus Esophageal mucosa caused. Such mucosal damage can in turn be induced by various mechanisms. Typical risk factors for the development of diseases of the esophagus are regular consumption of Medicines and frequent consumption acidic foods and drinks.

Anatomy of the esophagus

The esophagus (technical term: Esophagus) is an approximate 20 to 30 cm long tubular structure that connects the oral cavity with the stomach connects. Starting from the back of the oral cavity and the throat, the esophagus runs to a ring-shaped sphincter muscle (upper and lower esophageal sphincter) which marks the transition to the stomach. During the act of swallowing, the upper sphincter muscle can be tensed at will. The rest of the muscles surrounding the esophagus, on the other hand, elude the voluntary influence and become involuntarily controlled. The main job of the esophagus is to transport food from the oral cavity to the stomach to guarantee. The actual transport of food happens through the descending, ring-shaped contraction of the esophageal muscles. The passage of food through the esophagus takes only a period of time 5 to 10 seconds. Rain even while the food is being swallowed Neurons the relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter. For this reason, the passage of food from the oral cavity to the stomach is usually continuous. Immediately after the food has passed through, the lower esophageal sphincter is closed again. In addition, the lower esophageal sphincter has a protective function. The ring-shaped muscle is responsible for that Rising up of the acidic gastric juice into the esophagus (Reflux) is prevented.


Most diseases of the esophagus are noticeable through similar symptoms. As a rule, the affected patients feel more often at the beginning heartburn (Burns esophagus). Within a very short time, there is an increasingly painful burning sensation immediately behind the Sternum is localized. A burning esophagus occurs in most cases shortly after eating. The symptoms can last for minutes to hours and put a lot of strain on the affected patient. In addition, diseases of the esophagus often cause those affected belching sour have to. In particularly pronounced cases, this can cause stomach acid to rise into the oral cavity. From there it can enter the windpipe and destroy its tissue. For this reason, advanced esophageal diseases are often accompanied by a strong cough and hoarseness. These symptoms are most evident during the night and immediately after eating.


A burning sensation in the esophagus can have several causes. If heartburn occurs only occasionally, it is usually not a cause for concern. However, patients who suffer from frequent heartburn should definitely consult a specialist. The most common conditions that lead to a burning sensation in the esophagus are:

  • Inflammation of the gullet (esophagitis)
  • Reflux disease (reflux esophagitis)
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Diaphragmatic hernia (hiatal hernia)
  • Achalasia (cramped esophageal sphincter muscle)

Inflammation of the gullet (esophagitis)

stomach pain

Esophagitis occurs when inflammatory processes spread within the lining of the esophagus. In general, there are two types of esophagitis: acute and chronic Progressive form. In most of the affected patients, the lower third of the esophagus is affected immediately where it meets the stomach. Usually the lining of the esophagus is covered in a viscous substance. This ensures that the chyme can be passed on more easily. In addition, the secretion of the esophagus offers a certain protection against acid rising from the stomach.
The main cause of the development of esophagitis are wrong Eating habits. In addition, inflammation of the esophagus, which causes the esophagus to burn, is caused in many cases stress and from the stomach ascending acids triggered. In patients with a weak lower esophageal sphincter, the delicate mucous membrane of the esophagus can be enormously damaged. In addition, pronounced Obesity (Obesity) and the hormonal changes during pregnancy favor inflammatory processes in the area of ​​the esophageal mucosa. The esophagitis makes itself felt in most cases difficulties swallowing and heaped Eructation noticeable. In addition, the affected patients usually have the feeling that the esophagus is on fire. In very pronounced cases, an esophagitis can also lead to shortness of breath.
These typical symptoms already provide a first indication of the presence of an esophagitis. The further diagnosis takes place after an extensive doctor-patient discussion (anamnesis) by a so-called "Gastroscopy". This procedure uses a movable hose Introduced into the esophagus via the oral cavity. The condition of the esophagus can be examined with the help of a camera at the end of this tube. In addition, tissue samples may be taken from a patient who feels that the esophagus is burning. During the gastroscopy, a probe is usually put through the nose introduced. This probe can be used to measure the acidity in the lower part of the esophagus. A patient who feels that the esophagus is burning may usually have a significantly reduced esophagus PH value (pH <7) can be detected.

Treatment of esophagitis is always based on the underlying problem. Most patients can benefit from a targeted change in their eating habits. In particular, the consumption of acidic foods and beverages, black coffee and alcohol should be drastically reduced in the presence of esophagitis. In addition, food intake must be stopped immediately before going to bed.The drug treatment of esophagitis is usually done by taking Proton pump inhibitors. These reduce the gastric acid produced by the gastric mucosa and thus prevent the acid from rising up the esophagus. Affected patients usually feel after a few days that the esophagus burns less.

Read more on this topic at: Esophagitis (Esophagitis)

Reflux disease (reflux esophagitis)

Reflux disease

The term "reflux disease" means one inflammatory Changes in the lining of the esophagus, which are noticeable in the form of acid belching, dry cough and hoarseness. In addition, the affected patients often have the feeling that the esophagus is burning just behind the sternum (heartburn). Reflux esophagitis is a widespread disease that is urgent medical treatment requirement. Only in this way can serious consequential damage be avoided. Within the industrialized countries it is assumed that at least 20 percent of the population suffer from recurrent heartburn. The direct cause of the development of reflux disease is a weakness of the lower esophageal sphincter muscle. Since the sphincter can only inadequately seal the access to the stomach, increases acidic gastric juice into the esophagus. The mucous membrane of the lower sections of the esophagus cannot withstand this acidic secretion in the long term and is damaged. As a result, inflammatory processes spread and the affected patient gets the impression that the esophagus is burning.
The large-scale inflammation can cause a Rupture of the esophagus condition so that there is a passage to the chest and it can be contaminated.

Chronic reflux disease can affect esophageal tissue in such a way that the risk for the creation of Esophageal cancer increases significantly. The risk of developing reflux disease with a burning sensation in the esophagus is increased by various factors. The most important factors in this context include: nicotine, alcohol, Obesity, frequent use of medication, stress. In addition, reflux disease often occurs during pregnancy. The reason for this is the fact that the growing baby presses on the stomach from the abdomen.
The diagnosis of reflux disease is usually based on the typical symptoms (burning esophagus (heartburn), acid regurgitation, coughing, belching). Further diagnostics can usually be carried out using a gastroscopy. The treatment of reflux disease largely corresponds to the treatment of ordinary esophagitis. Chronic forms can also be treated surgically (restoration of the locking mechanism of the lower esophageal sphincter).

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Burning sensation in the esophagus when eating

Burning pain in the esophagus after eating is very common and usually comes through ascending gastric juice conditionally in the esophagus. However, if the pain occurs while eating, this can be so-called Reflux disease not be the reason. Rather, one should think of changes in the esophagus that cause pain when swallowing and when in contact with the chewed food. There comes a Inflammation of the esophagus in question, often by a chronic reflux from Stomach contents in the esophagus.

Read more about this under the topic: Pain in the esophagus

Bacterial or viral infections should be considered in the immunocompromised. A growth in the tissue can also be the cause of the pain. This can be both benign and malignant. In the event of recurring or persistent symptoms, a doctor should definitely be consulted so that the cause of the burning sensation in the esophagus is explained.

Burning sensation in the esophagus after vomiting

The vomiting causes the Mucous membrane of the esophagus irritated. This is especially the case with repeated vomiting. There is one mechanical irritation, because vomiting creates a very high pressure in the chest. That can too Cracks in the mucous membrane of the esophagus, in the worst case even to a rupture of the esophagus in the lower area. This is an absolute emergency and is accompanied by coughing and severe shortness of breath. In addition, there is also irritation from the rising food pulp and stomach acid, which is carried out again through the esophagus. Repeated vomiting can lead to inflammation of the esophagus. Both irritation and inflammation that persists after vomiting can cause burning pain in the esophagus.

Burning sensation in the esophagus after chemotherapy

After a chemotherapy the mucous membranes in particular are very irritated and prone to inflammation. This is due to the aggressive drugs that not only kill tumor cells, but also other cells in the body, such as the mucous membrane cells. In many cases, this also affects the esophagus.

Due to the already existing irritation of the mucous membrane, swallowing food and drinks can quickly lead to severe burning pain in the esophagus. A possible rise in stomach acid also quickly causes inflammation in the previously damaged mucous membrane, which is accompanied by heartburn. Patients after chemotherapy are often very sensitive to temperature, so they often complain of pain when eating very hot and very cold food and drinks

Burning sensation in the esophagus when swallowing

If the burning pain of the esophagus occurs mainly when swallowing, it is probably not heartburn due to the backflow of stomach contents into the esophagus. It is more likely that there is another cause, such as one viral or bacterial infection the esophagus. This occurs especially in people with a weakened immune system, for example in HIV infected patient. In addition, there may be mechanical damage, for example if the patient had previously suffered a Nasogastric tube has been. Chemical irritation can also occur if corrosive substances have been swallowed or if a Radiation therapy has taken place. Taking tablets with too little water can also lead to local irritation of the mucous membrane, which is noticeable through pain, especially when swallowing.

Burning sensation in the esophagus after drinking alcohol

Many people complain of heartburn, especially after consuming alcohol. On the one hand, this is because alcohol generally causes the Muscle tone (Tension in the muscle) degraded becomes. This also applies to the Sphincter between the esophagus and stomach. If it doesn't close properly, stomach acid will move up the esophagus, causing heartburn. On the other hand, alcohol is itself an acidic liquid and therefore irritates the lining of the esophagus. This too can cause a burning pain. This applies not only to drinks with a high alcohol content, such as schnapps and liqueurs, but also to beer, sparkling wine and wine. Every body reacts differently to alcohol. For some, half a glass of beer is enough to trigger heartburn.

If the burning pain is clearly related to the consumption of alcohol, this should be avoided permanently

Burning sensation in the esophagus when consuming warm drinks

Heartburn expresses itself differently in every person and can be triggered by various factors. Some patients find warm drinks to be painful and uncomfortable, while others drink a glass of warm milk to relieve the symptoms when they develop heartburn. It is important to avoid very hot drinks because they can irritate the esophageal mucous membrane and lead to pain. Since the tolerance limit for pain varies greatly from person to person, some people find even warm drinks painful. This is especially the case if the esophageal mucosa is already irritated

Burning sensation in the esophagus during pregnancy

A recurring burning sensation of the esophagus can occur during pregnancy, although this was not a problem before. Often a so-called Reflux esophagitis the cause of it. These are inflammatory changes in the lining of the esophagus caused by rising stomach acid.

The transition from the esophagus to the stomach is formed by a sphincter muscle, the so-called esophageal sphincter. This prevents gastric juice and food from rising again from the stomach. In a pregnant woman, the growing baby increases the pressure of the lower abdomen on the stomach. This can result in the sphincter not being able to hold tight and stomach acid flowing back into the esophagus. Eating many smaller meals a day and avoiding certain foods such as spicy and sour foods, coffee, and peppermint can usually relieve symptoms. If that doesn't help, medication can be taken that Inhibit gastric acid production (Proton pump inhibitors).

Burning sensation in the esophagus after taking tablets

If burning pain occurs in the esophagus after taking tablets, this is usually due to the Tablet taken with too little liquid has been. The tablet now adheres to the lining of the esophagus and leads to local inflammatory reactions. This can manifest itself in burning pain. Those affected often report feeling as if the tablet was "stuck in their throat". The tablet will also get stuck if the person lies down directly after taking it. Inflammatory reactions of the mucous membrane are especially of Antibiotics or Painkillers evoked.

Measures against the burning sensation in the esophagus

Often occurs heartburn after eating very much fatty foods on and off by itself. If this is known, so should these foods waived or their consumption should be restricted.

If burning pain in the esophagus occurs frequently, the cause should be clarified by a doctor. The most common cause is a Gastric acid reflux into the esophagus, which irritates the mucous membrane. This is the case when the sphincter does not close properly.

On the one hand, elevating the upper body helps, especially after meals. So lying down should be avoided. If the symptoms are very pronounced and also occur at night, it is advisable to raise the headboard a little. Then the gastric juice flows more easily back into the stomach due to the force of gravity instead of rising up the esophagus. If these measures do not help, the doctor can prescribe medication that inhibits the production of gastric acid. These are so-called proton pump inhibitors. This is how most patients get their heartburn under control

Esophageal cancer

At the Esophageal cancer (Esophageal carcinoma) is a malignant growth in the area of ​​the esophagus. Esophageal cancer causes many of the affected patients to feel that the esophagus is burning. In general, however, it is a rather rare form of cancer that can mainly be seen in people over 60. In addition, men suffer roughly 3 times more likely to develop esophageal cancer than women of the same age group. The main causes of the development of esophageal cancer are the excessive consumption of nicotine and or alcohol. It also plays an unhealthy one nutrition (especially high-fat and too hot food) play a decisive role in the development of esophageal tumors. In addition, it can often be observed in everyday clinical practice that patients who have suffered from so-called reflux disease over a long period of time have a significantly increased risk of developing esophageal cancer.
Difficulty swallowing, unexplained weight loss, chest pain, and a feeling that the esophagus burns (heartburn) are typical symptoms of esophageal cancer. In most cases, the diagnosis can be made using a Esophagoscopy (Endoscopy). During this procedure will be Tissue samples taken from the conspicuous areas and then examined in the laboratory. In some cases, the tumor can even be removed during the oesophagoscopy.
The treatment of the esophageal tumor with the feeling that the esophagus is burning depends on the stage determined in the respective patient. The best prospects for a cure are in patients who can completely surgically remove the tumor. In addition, the question of whether there are already offshoots of the tumor (Metastases) have formed in other organs play a decisive role in the prognosis. In many cases, however, surgical tumor removal must be supplemented by radiation or chemotherapy.

Read more on this topic at: Esophageal cancer

Diaphragmatic hernia

The term Diaphragmatic hernia describes the eversion of parts of the stomach through the diaphragm in the area of ​​the passage point of the esophagus (hiatus esophageus).
In general, the Diaphragmatic hernia divided into different forms. In case of axial sliding hernia the hernia spreads along the esophagus. The cause for the development of a diaphragmatic hernia is usually a pronounced loosening of the diaphragmatic connective tissue in the transition area.
This disease, which causes the affected patients to feel that the esophagus is burning, can be observed especially in people over the age of 50. In addition, strong plays Obesity (Obesity) plays a vital role in causing a Hiatal hernia. Typical symptoms of the diaphragmatic hernia include heartburn (burning in the esophagus), Pain behind the sternum, Nausea and chest tightness. Classically, these symptoms mainly show up after eating.
A very rare but threatening complication of the diaphragmatic hernia is Entrapment part of the stomach. The affected patients then feel a pronounced Gag reflex and severe pain in the pit of the stomach. The diagnosis of Diaphragmatic hernia mostly done by means of Esophagus- and Gastroscopy (Gastroscopy). Also, some forms of diaphragmatic hernia can result in an esophagus that burns through radiological Procedure (so-called contrast medium swallow) are made visible. A diaphragmatic hernia is usually only treated if it is associated with reflux disease or causes discomfort in the affected patient. The aim of treatment is always to eliminate the typical symptoms of reflux (burning esophagus (heartburn), acid belching, coughing, belching). For many of those affected, this goal can be achieved by taking Proton pump inhibitors (for example Pantoprazole) can be achieved. In addition, surgical treatment of the diaphragmatic hernia is necessary in some cases.