esophageal varices

What are Esophageal Varices?

Esophageal varices are enlarged veins that occur in the esophagus, the muscular tube that carries food and liquid from the mouth to the stomach. The varices are typically caused by portal hypertension, a condition in which the veins within the abdomen become blocked, leading to an increased pressure in the portal vein that carries blood from the gastrointestinal tract, spleen, and pancreas.

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What Causes Esophageal Varices?

Esophageal varices can result from a number of different causes, including:

  • Chronic liver disease
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Infections of the liver
  • Cirrhosis (scarring and hardening of the liver)
  • Clotting disorders

What are the Symptoms of Esophageal Varices?

Esophageal varices typically do not cause any symptoms unless they become enlarged, which can lead to bleeding. This can cause vomiting of blood or dark, tarry stools. Other signs and symptoms can include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Blood in the vomit
  • Red or black stools
  • Lightheadedness
  • Shortness of breath

Diagnosis and Treatment of Esophageal Varices

Esophageal varices are typically diagnosed during a physical exam, along with a history of medical and family history. Tests that may be conducted include an ultrasound, blood tests, and an endoscopy. Treatment includes lifestyle modifications and medications, depending on the severity and cause of the esophageal varices. In severe cases, surgery may be required.

Esophageal varices can be a serious medical condition, but with prompt diagnosis and treatment, they can often be managed successfully. Speak with your healthcare provider if you have any concerns or questions about how to properly manage esophageal varices.

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