A Schatzki ring is a thin buildup of smooth tissue that forms in the lower end of the esophageal tube just above the stomach’s opening, MedicineNet states. Although these ringlike growths are benign, they can lead to constriction, causing chunks of food to get stuck in the lower esophageal tube.
The lower esophagus usually has a diameter between 1.5 and 2 inches, but a Schatzki ring can cause the tube’s diameter to become as narrow as 0.5 inches, Merck Manual explains. A Schatzki ring is most often present at birth, and the symptoms manifest in adulthood after age 25. In symptomatic cases, patients may have difficulty swallowing solid foods, especially dry bread or meat. During minor episodes, drinking water may be enough to dislodge the trapped food.
Schatzki rings are common, but they rarely cause health problems, so most patients are never diagnosed, according to MedicineNet. The cause of these rings is unknown, and some doctors believe acid reflux damage contributes to the condition. Patients often experience symptoms when they fail to chew food properly, causing large chunks to clog the esophageal tube and trigger chest pain. If the food doesn’t pass into to the stomach, the patient may have to force regurgitation to relieve the symptoms. Doctors diagnose Schatzki rings by performing barium X-rays or examining the patient’s esophagus using an endoscope.