The esophagus or food pipe is the long tube that runs from the throat to the stomach. It has muscular walls with the inner mucosal lining secreting large amounts of mucus to lubricate food as it passes down to the stomach. The inner mucosa of the esophagus is constantly undergoing wear and tear with the passage of food and faces ongoing mechanical abrasion when hard and sharp foods like bones are eaten. It also has to withstand chemical damage from drinking caustic substances (rare) or with the backward flow of stomach acid (common). It has thick inner lining known as the esophageal mucosa to withstand various forms on injury but this may become damaged, especially over the long term.
What is an esophageal ulcer?
An esophageal ulcer is an open sore that forms in the wall of the esophagus. The esophageal mucosa can withstand various insults and this may lead to inflammation of the wall of the esophagus. Eventually the mucosa becomes eroded. The surface tissue is damaged and an opening to the deeper tissue develops. This is an ulcer. Although there are several possible causes of an esophageal ulcer, the prevalence of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is one of the leading causes of ulcers. However, infectious factors particularly in a person with HIV/AIDS and other deficient immune states has increased the incidence of esophageal ulcers due to factors other than reflux. Overall esophageal ulcers are not as common as stomach ulcers and duodenal ulcers which are collectively termed peptic ulcer disease.