EBSCO Health

Print PageSend to a Friend
Health Library Home>Disease, Condition, & Injury Fact Sheets>Article

Esophageal Stricture

How to Say It: Ee-sof-uh-gee-uhl


Esophageal stricture is a narrowing of the tube (esophagus) that goes from the mouth to the stomach. This makes it hard to take in food.


The main cause is scar tissue. This may happen because of:

  • Eating or drinking harmful substances, such as household cleaners
  • Enlarged veins from esophageal varices treatments
  • Injuries caused by an endoscope—a thin, lighted tube used to see inside the body
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Structural problems

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:


Problems may be:

  • Pain and trouble swallowing
  • A feeling of food being stuck
  • Bringing swallowed food up again
  • Drooling, coughing, or choking
  • Problems getting enough fluids or nutrition


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical may be done.

Other tests may be:

  • An upper GI endoscopy to look at the structures from the back of the throat to the stomach
  • An upper GI series to take pictures of the digestive system using contrast material to highlight abnormalities


The goal of treatment is to ease symptoms and stop them from coming back. Options are:

  • Medicines to lower stomach acid in people whose GERD is causing the narrowing
  • Esophageal dilation to stretch or widen the esophagus using a scope and a balloon or plastic dilator

Surgery may be needed when other methods do not help.


To lower the risk of this problem:

  • People with GERD should follow the care plan given to them by their doctors.
  • Avoid substances that can damage the esophagus.
  • Keep harmful substances away from children.

American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians


Canadian Association of Gastroenterology

The College of Family Physicians of Canada


Caustic esophageal stricture. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/caustic-esophageal-stricture. Accessed October 21, 2020.

Esophageal stricture. Cedars-Sinai website. Available at: https://www.cedars-sinai.edu/Patients/Health-Conditions/Esophageal-Stricture.aspx. Accessed October 21, 2020.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/gastroesophageal-reflux-disease-gerd. Accessed October 21, 2020.

Kellerman R, Kintanar T. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. Prim Care. 2017 Dec;44(4):561-573.

Understanding esophageal dilation. American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy website. Available at: https://www.asge.org/home/for-patients/patient-information/understanding-eso-dilation-updated. Accessed October 21, 2020.

Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Daniel A. Ostrovsky, MD