What Is Pain in the Esophagus Known As?


Quick Answer

Pain in the esophagus manifests itself as symptoms such as chest pain or heartburn and is referred to as esophageal spasms, as reported by WebMD. Due to the divergence of the visceral afferents, it can be difficult to localize esophageal pain and, as a result, it becomes increasingly hard to diagnose the condition. Esophageal spasms and pain can be caused by mechanical distention when there are obstructions blocking the esophageal pathway, acid exposure, temperature fluctuations and osmolality-related stimuli.

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Full Answer

The vagal afferents present in the esophagus contain mechanosensitive fibers that can cause esophageal pain. Irregular contractions of the muscles in the esophagus, known as diffuse esophageal spasms, can prevent ingested food from reaching the stomach. The ingested food becomes an obstruction and will stimulate the mechanosensitive fibers to send out chemical signals that represent pain and discomfort to the brain.

Esophageal spasms can also be caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease or achalasia. Some medical experts claim that the condition can also be triggered by anxiety and panic attacks. The cause behind esophageal spasms is still unknown; however, many medical experts have hypothesized that the spasms may be a result of disrupted nerve activity that is responsible for the swallowing motion of the esophagus.

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